Study helps kids with obe­sity gene

China Daily (Canada) - - FRONT PAGE - ByWANG HONGYI wanghongyi@chi­nadaily.com.cn

A re­search team has suc­cess­fully helped chil­dren with Prader-Willi Syn­drome, a kind of hered­i­tary obe­sity, lose weight by im­prov­ing the bac­te­rial flora in their gas­troin­testi­nal tract.

Prader-Willi Syn­drome is a com­plex ge­netic dis­ease that is caused by the ab­sence of some genes that func­tion in a par­tic­u­lar part of chro­mo­some 15.

Chil­dren with PWS are called “an­gels who never get the sense of be­ing full”, be­cause they de­velop an in­sa­tiable ap­petite when en­ter­ing into child­hood, which leads to chronic overeat­ing and obe­sity, then on to bu­limia. The dis­ease is rare, but deadly.

How to help chil­dren with PWS con­trol their weight has long been a prob­lem world­wide. At present, the ma­jor clin­i­cal treat­ment­meth­ods for PWS in­clude the use of drugs to sup­press ap­petite, gas­troin­testi­nal surgery or a long-term low calo­rie diet.

“Ap­petite sup­pres­sants usu­ally don’t pro­duce much sig­nif­i­cant ef­fect, while gas­troin­testi­nal surgery of­ten comes with higher risk,” said Pro­fes­sor Zhao Liping from Shang­hai Jiao Tong Univer­sity, who led the re­search.

“Be­sides that, to stick to a diet for a long time is dif­fi­cult and makes those chil­dren who of­ten have vo­ra­cious ap­petites suf­fer.” Zhao said chil­dren with PWS have the same char­ac­ter­is­tics of im­bal­anced in­testi­nal flora as those chil­dren with sim­ple obe­sity.

In Zhao’s clin­i­cal tri­als, the foods best suited to help the chil­dren were pri­mar­ily car­bo­hy­drates, such as whole grains, and other foods with pro­bi­otics.

Af­ter 12 weeks’ nu­tri­tional in­ter­ven­tion, with­out ex­tra ex­er­cise, hunger in the chil­dren with PWS had been al­le­vi­ated and their bu­limia was well con­trolled.

As the bu­limia eased, chil­dren went home.

Among these vol­un­teers, one child’s weight had dropped to 73 kg from 140 kg af­ter 430 days’ treat­ment. The child’s weight has since sta­bi­lized, no longer steadily in­creas­ing as it did be­fore the treat­ment.

“These signs in­di­cate that the new di­etary in­ter­ven­tion, by mod­u­lat­ing in­testi­nal bac­te­rial flora, can ef­fec­tively re­duce the weight of chil­dren with PWS,” Zhao said.

PWS af­fects 1 in 10,000 to 15,000 peo­ple world­wide, said Yin Ai­hua, a doc­tor at Guang­dong Province Women and Chil­dren Care Hos­pi­tal who par­tic­i­pated in the study.

“China cur­rently doesn’t have the ex­act num­ber of PWS pa­tients,” Yin said.

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