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Childhood Obesity and Heredity

Obesity occurs when a child weighs significantly more than others of the same age and height.  It’s a serious medical condition that can lead to severe health problems such as diabetes, high cholesterol, and high blood pressure.

Childhood obesity was long thought to be the fault of poor parenting, but a new study shows that it might have more to do with genetics than previously thought.

This study reveals some severely overweight children have “holes” in their genomes which researchers say can drive childhood obesity and decrease the ability of these children to learn. Even though parents are frequently blamed for their child’s obesity, studies in identical twins raised apart show that genes play more of a major role than previously thought in who becomes obese.

Pinpointing individual genes responsible for childhood obesity is extremely difficult, however.  In fact, only a small portion of the population have been found to possess this gene.

This particular study, however, used a different kind of genetic variation known as deletion.  This means that entire genes are absent.

The scientists compared the genes of 300 children who were obese by age 10 with people whose weight were normal, and found that these children were much more likely to have these types of deletions, which are rare.

One of these deletions involved the absence of a gene which sensed the hormones leptin and insulin.  These hormones are essential to maintaining the body’s metabolism and appetite suppression.

Many overweight children who were part of this study had been taken from their parents because it was thought the parents were the cause of the child’s obesity.  According to researchers, however, it was clear that the deletion was the cause.

The deletions responsible for childhood obesity are also related to various psychiatric problems including autism, learning difficulties, and schizophrenia.

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