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Obesity genes

BMJ 2001; 322 doi: (Published 17 March 2001) Cite this as: BMJ 2001;322:630

Identifying single genes involved in polygenic inheritance is not easy

  1. Thorkild I A Sørensen, professor,
  2. Søren M Echwald, postdoctoral research fellow
  1. Danish Epidemiology Science Centre, Institute of Preventive Medicine, Copenhagen University Hospital, DK 1399 Copenhagen K, Denmark
  2. Steno Diabetes Centre, Hagedorn Research Institute, DK 2820 Gentofte, Denmark

    Papers p 652

    There is no doubt that obesity is strongly influenced by environmental factors. The prevalence of obesity increases so rapidly in many populations that the changes cannot be attributed to changes in genetic inheritance.1 There are differences in prevalence between populations and between various groups within populations; these differences are closely associated with environmental factors, especially social and behavioural factors.1 The degree of an individual's obesity can be modified by interventions that alter a person's energy intake or energy expenditure.1 However, there is no doubt that obesity is also influenced by genetics. That obesity runs in families is an old observation,2 and it has been repeatedly confirmed in multiple studies in populations from different parts of the world who have lived in different environments.2 Studies of monozygotic and dizygotic twins have unambiguously shown that there is a much greater resemblance in the degree of obesity between genetically identical monozygotic twins; this indicates that the resemblance is related to their similar genes rather than their shared environment.2 However, these studies may have overestimated the effect of genetics if monozygotic twins share exposure to more environmental effects …

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