Do these genes make me look fat? Maybe

Northwest Arkansas Democrat-Gazette - - Style - ROSE­MARY BOGGS Email me at:

We know that fam­ily mem­bers are not ge­net­i­cally iden­ti­cal. My sis­ters and I are a good ex­am­ple.

We are two years apart in age. They were born at nor­mal 7-pound-ish weights. I was pre­ma­ture and weighed 4 pounds, 8 ounces.

From about the age of, oh, let’s say 4, I started grow­ing taller and rounder. Of course, I al­ways stood in the cen­ter of each photo we took be­cause I was sev­eral inches taller at an early age. Even­tu­ally I was taller than both par­ents and my ma­ter­nal grand­par­ents.

As time went on, my sis­ters stayed slim and I got heav­ier. It both­ered me be­cause we ate the same meals, played out­side the same amount and had the same ac­tiv­ity level. They had prob­lems with their skin and some acne, I had clear skin. And even now they are thin­ner, but they do have more gray hair than I do.

I find some com­fort read­ing about con­tem­po­rary re­search stud­ies sug­gest­ing that, for some peo­ple, be­ing thin has more to do with in­her­it­ing a “lucky” set of genes than hav­ing a per­fect diet or life­style.

Yes, a more health­ful diet and an ac­tive life­style are ben­e­fi­cial. I know that.

I found an in­for­ma­tive ar­ti­cle on the Na­tional In­sti­tutes of Health Di­rec­tor’s Blog (di­rec­tors­blog.nih.gov) about such re­search. It was writ­ten by Fran­cis S. Collins, MD, Ph.D., who was ap­pointed 16th di­rec­tor by Pres­i­dent Barack Obama and re­tained in the job by Pres­i­dent Don­ald Trump.

Collins writes that re­search on the weight/ge­net­ics lot­tery is pro­gress­ing quickly and new dis­cov­er­ies are help­ing to bring into bet­ter fo­cus how our bod­ies store fat and how the com­plex in­ter­play of ge­net­ics, diet, be­hav­ior and other fac­tors de­ter­mines whether we can “read­ily” main­tain a healthy body weight, or whether it takes a lot of work.

Most of it be­gins with genomes. A genome is a com­plete set of an or­gan­ism’s DNA, in­clud­ing the genes. Each genome con­tains all the in­for­ma­tion needed to build and main­tain said or­gan­ism, whether hu­man or an­i­mal.

Re­searchers in the In­ter­na­tional Ge­netic In­ves­ti­ga­tion of An­thro­po­met­ric Traits (GI­ANT) pro­gram have ex­am­ined the genomes of more than a half mil­lion peo­ple to look for genes and re­gions of chro­mo­somes that play a role in body fat dis­tri­bu­tion. They found more than 140 ge­netic lo­ca­tions that con­trib­ute to these traits.

For ex­am­ple, we have ge­netic traits that in­flu­ence the waist-to-hip ra­tio, a stan­dard mea­sure of fat dis­tri­bu­tion in the body. Peo­ple whose waist­lines are larger than their hip cir­cum­fer­ence have more belly fat around their ab­dom­i­nal or­gans, which places them at risk for heart dis­ease and di­a­betes.

Re­searchers found that more than 49 lo­ca­tions in the genome are linked to fat cell devel­op­ment, blood ves­sel for­ma­tion, skele­tal growth, glu­cose con­trol and in­sulin re­sis­tance. And many of the lo­ca­tions showed a larger ef­fect in women, which sug­gests that fat dis­tri­bu­tion dif­fers by sex, which helps ex­plain why men and women gain weight in dif­fer­ent ways.

We can cel­e­brate that re­searchers are mak­ing dis­cov­er­ies that may pro­vide fresh tar­gets for new weight loss treat­ments. But since there are so many vari­ables and causes of obe­sity, they have a long way to go.

So while there are many find­ings on so many ge­netic fac­tors, and it can be con­fus­ing, Collins con­tends that the find­ings should pro­vide op­ti­mism that bet­ter times are ahead to pro­vide new ap­proaches to pre­vent or con­trol obe­sity. Huz­zah!

VALEN­TINE’S CARDS

Arkansas Chil­dren’s Hos­pi­tal has a way to send free dig­i­tal Valen­tine cards to pa­tients at the hos­pi­tal. Here is a short­cut link: bit.ly/2Sem­n8M.

Just use the link and choose a theme card and mes­sage. And you can send more than one.

The hos­pi­tal also ac­cepts do­na­tions of new art sup­plies so the pa­tients can cre­ate their own cards or art projects. The wish list in­cludes things like goo­gly eyes, rhine­stones, se­quins, foam stick­ers, glue dots and safe scis­sors. They must be in the orig­i­nal pack­ag­ing, which can help pro­tect pa­tients from in­fec­tions.

To sched­ule a do­na­tion, see archil­drens.org/toysandgifts.

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