A team of scientists believe they have discovered a ‘thinness gene’ which would explain why some people don’t struggle as much as others to keep their weight down.
However, there are those who are apparently able to stay slim without so much as breaking a sweat and for many years there has been a suspicion that a gene may be responsible, now, the wait is over.
A team of scientists believe they have discovered a ‘thinness gene,’ which would explain why some people don’t struggle as much as others to keep their weight down.
The Science behind it
The gene in question is known as anaplastic lymphoma kinase (ALK), and is located in the hypothalamus, the region of the brain responsible for controlling appetite and how an individual controls fat.
Researchers searched a database of 47,102 people in Estonia between the ages of 20 to 44, this included clinical information as well as biological samples. The team identified thin, healthy individuals in the lowest sixth percentile of weight. Those identified as being within the 30th to 50th percentile were the control group, while those in the 95th percentile were marked out as the obese group.
The scientists then proceeded to pinpoint variants of genes that appeared to emerge more often in the thin group. They then looked for the genes in flies in an attempt to identify those with a long evolutionary history, picking out ALK as a probable ‘thinness gene.’
To find out whether ALK does play a part in controlling weight, researchers experimented with the gene in flies and discovered that levels of triglycerides – the form most fats take in both food and in human bodies – was reduced.
After repeating the same technique in mice, the animals were found to have lost weight and did not become obese, this was despite them following the same diet and having the same amount of movement as other mice.
According to the researchers, the mice experiments suggest ALK affects a brain circuit which tells fat tissue to burn more calories. The study authors wrote that healthily thin people, ‘often have the desire to gain weight and have normal food intake and frequently snack, indicating they have a metabolic rather than hedonic low body weight.’