Intriguing research points to potential genetic solutions to prevent and treat obesity.
Obesity is a significant risk factor for a host of conditions, including heart disease and stroke, diabetes and high blood pressure.
It is responsible for nearly 25 per cent of heart disease and 10 per cent of strokes in Canada. Its prevalence is increasing so rapidly that more than a quarter of Canadian children are now overweight or obese, exposing them to risks of health complications earlier in life.
For many people, significant and sustained weight loss is a challenge – one that is made harder by our obesity-promoting environment.
But within this environment, genetics influence each person’s propensity to gain weight. If research can identify novel genes influencing body weight, that could provide opportunities for producing new strategies to tackle obesity and its associated health risks.
Dr. Susanne Clee has already identified two genes which may affect body weight. Her new study, supported by the Heart and Stroke Foundation, will be the first to look at these genes for their roles in obesity.
Dr. Clee, an assistant professor in the department of cellular and physiological sciences at the University of British Columbia, plans to evaluate if changes to one or both of these genes impact metabolism and weight, excluding the effects of diet and exercise.
She suspects that reduced activity levels of the two genes will make subjects more prone to weight gain. In models with reduced gene functionality, her team will monitor weight and fat gain, as well as alterations in sugar and fat metabolism. Dr. Clee will also investigate the mechanisms by which the genes induce these changes.
Insight gained from this project will provide more knowledge on obesity development and could lead to new treatments.
This presents the possibility of manipulating genes to control obesity and the ability to modify metabolism. New approaches to support weight loss and maintenance in overweight individuals will significantly lower their heart disease and stroke risk.
“The Heart and Stroke Foundation has supported this project from its early stages and HSF funding is absolutely essential for this work to continue,” Dr. Clee said. “At a time when research funding is increasingly difficult to come by, the recognition of the potential of this work by the HSF has been critical.”
- Family history can double your risk of heart disease and stroke. Know your risk.