No silver bullet to beating obesity

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New research challenges previous findings that any single aspect of diet or lifestyle can be targeted to reduce the risk of obesity in adults with a high genetic risk of putting on weight.

The study1 carried out by the team of Prof. Timothy Frayling, University of Exeter Medical School (England), focusing on 120’000 individuals from the United Kingdom’s biobank (UK biobank), and to which the IUMSP’s Prof. Zoltan Kutalik participated, finds instead that many fattening aspects of the environment, lifestyle and behaviour interact with a person’s genes to influence his or her waistline – and that the strongest influence is from poverty.

Within this study, researchers replicated the analyses on the genetic data collected from about 6’000 individuals of the city of Lausanne, within the framework of the CHUV’s Colaus study (www.colaus.ch).

The findings contradict some studies, which have concluded that concentrating obesity policy on specific aspects such as the consumption of fizzy drinks of fried food could make a meaningful difference to help decrease waistlines. The new research challenges this, and concludes that it is premature to suggest that specific aspects of behaviour or the environment can be targeted to reduce obesity levels effectively in people at high risk due to their genes.

This study also benefited from a Swiss National Science Foundation (SNF) funding.

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News Université d'Exeter

1 Etude: Gene–obesogenic environment interactions in the UK Biobank study, International journal of epidemiology (Open access)

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