Oh wow, there’s a genetic defect that can cause obesity – here we go, everyone with a high BMI can now rush to the GP to see if they have this gene? Heavy sighs of ‘ I told you so’ are being squeezed out from every overladen settee in the country.
Let’s look at the evidence first of all. A US study found that blocking this gene (KSR2) in mice made them overweight so a UK study carried out at Cambridge set out to see if this effect was also apparent in humans. The team studied over 2000 severely obese people and found that there were many with mutations in the KSR2 gene. This gene is one of many that governs how insulin is used and how cells grow, divide and use energy properly. Mutation in KSR2 can cause cells to malfunction and in some cases, damage their ability to process glucose and fatty acids.
In some groups (those who developed childhood obesity) the scientists found that KSR2 mutations led to a larger appetite in childhood and a slower metabolic rate. Those with KSR2 mutations had severe insulin resistance and lost weight when given metformin which is a diabetic drug that lowers blood sugar.
The lead researcher is quoted as saying:
If we can find ways to trigger or activate this pathway, it might be more broadly useful for patients with weight problems or diabetes.
So, for a small group, this might be very helpful – but for the rest of us: steady on the food and keep activity levels up!