Volume 93, Issue 29

Thursday, October 21, 1999


Debate kick starts BOG race

Sunday's sexy Sue titillates Western crowd

Thames clean up ordered for blob

Bill Gates denied honorary access

Researcher finds link to love handles



Researcher finds link to love handles

By John Intini
Gazette Staff

Those fighting the battle of the bulge may have a new weapon, thanks to the discovery of an obesity gene.

By analyzing the DNA of 213 people from an Inuit community on the western shore of the Hudson Bay, it was discovered persons with a specific gene variant, GNB3-825T, were found to have larger waistlines, said Rob Hegele, geneticist at Western's Robart Research Institute and lead scientist of the study.

"[The gene] does not have a huge effect but it was consistent throughout the community," Hegele said, adding those with the gene variant had waist-lines an average of two inches larger then those without it.

The research, published earlier this week in the journal Genome Research, is part of a much larger nationwide study conducted over the last decade to identify the risk factors of heart disease.

Hegele explained the Inuit community was chosen as a case study based on their statistically proven lower levels of heart disease and obesity, as well as their isolation from mainstream causes of weight gain. However, Hegele added the scientists centred their analysis on the variance in weights among members of the community.

Benefits of this discovery include being able to identify those susceptible to heart disease, diabetes and heart attacks, he said.

"If you carry the gene you really have to watch your diet," he said. "Being able to test those at a young age is important so as to identify those who may be at highest risk of heart problems."

Philip Connelly, professor of bio-chemistry at the University of Toronto and co-author of the study, said it is important to remember this gene is just one piece of a very large puzzle identifying the complete cause of obesity.

"Our study is part of a mesh work," he said. "This is not a cause and effect discovery. There is still a great deal of work to be done and a number of other genes which also cause obesity which have yet to be uncovered." GNB3-825T amounts to five to 10 per cent of the cause of obesity, Hegele said.

Brian Luscomb, spokesperson for California-based Jenny Craig International, said it has been estimated more then 100 million Americans are considered overweight. "Research in the field of obesity is extremely important, regardless of how small, based on the seriousness of the issue," Luscomb said.

"With more and more people reaching the baby boom age the risk factors for heart disease become extremely prevalent," said Elissa Freeman, spokesperson for the Canadian Heart and Stroke Foundation, an organizaion that partially funded the study. Freeman also explained identifying genes which may be indicators to the wide spread problem can only be helpful.

Bill Bridger, Western's VP-research, said this gene work is in line with Hegele's past published work related to research on diabetes.

Hegele added further research on the subject will include looking at other communities across the country in search of the same gene variant.

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Copyright The Gazette 1999