Genetic Obesity? Weight Loss May Alter DNA


From hypertension to painful joints, there are lots of good reasons to lose weight. And according to recent research published in Cell Reports, an open-access life sciences journal (Cell Press), losing weight not only has the power to put type 2 diabetes in remission, but also can alter gene expression for improvement in metabolism.

The study looked at patients who underwent gastric bypass surgery for weight loss. The reasons for a decrease in type 2 diabetes, report researchers, are unclear, but they have successfully made a connection between DNA chemical markings and weight loss.

"We provide evidence that in severely obese people, the levels of specific genes that control how fat is burned and stored in the body are changed to reflect poor metabolic health," senior author Professor Juleen Zierath, of the Karolinska Institutet, in Stockholm, Sweden, told Cell Press. "After surgery, the levels of these genes are restored to a healthy state, which mirrors weight loss and coincides with overall improvement in metabolism."

It’s the post-surgical weight loss itself that investigators found causes changes in DNA: PGC-1alpha and PDK4, two genes that control glucose and fat metabolism. Both of these were reset to function normally as an environmental response.

"The novelty of our work originates with the finding that DNA methylation is altered by weight loss," said first author Romain Barrès, of the University of Copenhagen, in Denmark.

This research has valuable implications for future scientifically designed weight loss solutions. More interestingly, however, is the possibility that weight loss, whether it’s by gastric bypass, liposuction or good old fashioned exercise, can reverse genetic correlations with obesity.

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Originally Published Apr 30, 2013