Obesity affects more than one in three adults. This is currently a real problem in the United States, as people with weight issues are more likely to suffer from various health conditions that inevitably drive up health care costs.
It has long been assumed that overweight people simply consume more calories than they burn off, which would make sense. But according to new research, obesity in adults could be the result of faulty genes.
Researchers from the Harry Perkins Institute of Medical Research and The University of Western Australia have discovered a groundbreaking discovery involving the cells that generate energy in our bodies. The reduced function of the gene was found to play a vital role in the process of breaking down fats, resulting in adult-onset obesity.
This knowledge could potentially help enable the development of treatments and medication to overcome this shortcoming, lessening the impact of obesity and the developing of diseases such as fatty liver disease, diabetes, and even some cancers.
A fault was found in the mitochondria, commonly known as the powerhouses of the cell. When we consume a regular diet consisting of carbohydrates and fats, mitochondria help to break down and utilize the energy they contain. If the mitochondria are compromised, the breakdown of these substances becomes poorly regulated and they become likely to be stored as fat.
“We investigated the impact of mitochondrial dysfunction, in relation to a specific gene known as PTCD1, required for energy production and the breakdown of fats and carbohydrates. Healthy adults will have two copies of the PTCD1 gene, but we looked at what happens when there is only one copy, and we learned that PTCD1 is vital for the breakdown of fats and energy production. When one copy of this gene is lost, it results in obesity, fatty liver and ultimately heart disease,” said Kara Perks, who was the lead researcher on the study.
It was also found that the PTCD1 gene affects the way mitochondria are formed which impacts their overall shape the ability for several mitochondria to stay connected with each other.
With the prevalence of obesity increasing in the United States and across the globe, it is helpful to find that our genes play a role. While this may not be the case for all overweight individuals, this discovery may be helpful for those struggling to keep the weight off despite regular exercise and a balanced diet.