Genetics researchers have identified at least two new gene variants that increase the risk of common childhood obesity. "This is the largest-ever genome-wide study of common childhood obesity, in contrast to previous studies that have focused on more extreme forms of obesity primarily connected with rare disease syndromes," said lead investigator Struan F.A. Grant, Ph.D., associate director of the Center for Applied Genomics at The Children's Hospital of Philadelphia. "As a consequence, we have definitively identified and characterized a genetic predisposition to common childhood obesity." The study, by an international collaborative group, the Early Growth Genetics (EGG) Consortium, appeared online on April 8, 2012 in Nature Genetics. As one of the major health issues affecting modern societies, obesity has increasingly received public attention, especially given a rising prevalence of the condition among children. Research indicates that obese adolescents tend to have higher risk of mortality as adults. Although environmental factors, such as food choices and sedentary habits, contribute to the increasing rates of obesity in childhood, twin studies and other family-based evidence have suggested a genetic component to the disease as well. Previous studies have identified gene variants contributing to obesity in adults and in children with extreme obesity, but relatively little is known about genes implicated in regular childhood obesity. "The Center for Applied Genomics at the Children's Hospital of Philadelphia has recruited and genotyped the world's largest collection of DNA from children with common obesity," said Dr. Grant.
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