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Genes to fight obesity


Future weight loss diets could become 'custom-made' for each individual, according to scientists working on a three-year international research project funded by the European Union. The project, known as Nugenob, explores the relationship between diet, in particular fat intake, genetics and obesity.

Today, 20-40 per cent of all Europeans are overweight with an additional 10-20 per cent considered obese. Obesity is most likely caused by a combination of environmental and genetic factors - with genetic differences explaining up to 40 per cent of weight variations between different people.

In the Nugenob project, based at the Institute of Preventive Medicine in Copenhagen, Denmark, scientists are searching for genes that have an influence in the development and maintenance of obesity and that are diet-dependant.

In addition, they are investigating whether these genes are related to appetite, energy expenditure or the level of obesity related hormones in blood after a single high-fat meal. They will also look at weight loss after a low- or a high-fat diet and at the changes in gene activity after the dieting. The researchers expect that this data will allow them to find predictors of a successful weight loss when following a controlled diet.

In the present phase of the study, which will finish by the end of October, almost 900 test participants (obese and normal weight) from eight European cities underwent one day of clinical examinations to determine reactions after a high-fat meal. The 750 overweight participants then followed the 10-week weight loss programme.

Progress on project no: QLK1-2000-00618 can be followed on the Nugenob website.

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