NIH Researchers Link Single Gene Variation to Obesity

News Brief by Kathryn Gibb

        A study funded by the National Institute of Health and led by Dr. Joan C. Han at the University of Tennessee Health Science Center has found that variations in a single gene can affect one’s likelihood to become obese. The single variation in the gene for the brain-derived neurotropic factor, BDNF, can result in less production of the BDNF protein that helps regulate appetite. These lower BDNF levels in the hypothalamus can affect eating and body weight. For example, higher levels of the BDNF protein can make a person feel full. Along with that, if the protein levels are low, it can lead to greater energy storage, thus resulting in weight gain. The study found that those with less BDNF protein had both a higher BMI and a higher body fat percentage compared to those with normal levels. This gene-variation that causes less production of BDNF is more present in African American and Hispanic populations that non-Hispanic Caucasians. The study’s results are useful in that they could help develop better strategies for combating Obesity. Researchers state that further studies should be done to conclude whether or not boosting BDNF levels is an appropriate strategy to target obesity in these individuals.


"NIH Researchers Link Single Gene Variation to Obesity." National Institutes of Health. U.S Department of Health and Human Services, 29 Oct. 2015. Web. 05 Nov. 2015