New clue to body shape variations
Published 10/10/2010 | 18:24
A woman's fashion fate is partly determined at birth by her "apple or pear" genes, research has shown.
Scientists have identified 13 new gene regions containing DNA variations linked to body shape.
Many have a much stronger effect in women than in men, deciding whether they are more likely to store fat around the middle or bottom of their bodies.
Apple-shaped individuals with extra fat around their waists are known to have an increased risk of type 2 diabetes and heart disease.
On the other hand, some experts believe a pear-shaped body with fat stored in the thighs and buttocks protects against diabetes and high blood pressure.
Researchers located the DNA variations after pooling data from international gene studies involving more than 100,000 people. They identified 13 gene regions linked to waist and hip body fat distribution. Seven of the genetic variations have a much bigger influence in women than in men, the scientists discovered.
Although the findings explain only around 1% of the variation in waist-to-hip ratios, they point towards specific biological mechanisms that govern where the body stores fat. Genes that regulate levels of cholesterol, triglyceride blood fats, insulin and insulin resistance - the inability to respond properly to insulin - are thought to be involved.
Dr Cecilia Lindgren, from the Wellcome Trust Centre for Human Genetics at Oxford University, one of the scientists who carried out the research, said: "By finding genes that have an important role in influencing whether we are apple-shaped or pear-shaped, and the ways in which that differs between men and women, we hope to home in on the crucial underlying biological processes.
"Understanding biology through finding genes is just a first step in a long journey towards treatment, but it is a vital one. As efforts to tackle obesity through changes in lifestyle or by different treatment options have proved extremely challenging, the potential to alter patterns of fat distribution may offer an alternative for future drug discovery."
The research is reported in the journal Nature Genetics.