Scientists Discover New Obesity Gene – Obesity Research Update #4

Obesity researcher, Professor Philippe Froguel and his team have discovered a new obesity gene.

Apparently, this gene ( PCSK1 ) plays a part in the maturation of various hormones that control food intake.

This means that if you have a mutated version of this gene, you are predisposed to severe obesity. Severe obesity, not just regular, run of the mill obesity.

The Details

PCSK1 produces an enzyme called proconvertase 1.

Proconvertase 1 activates several hormones and circulating peptides that are involved in controlling appetite – insulin, glucagon, GLP1, and pro-opiomelanocortin (POMC).

The conclusion of this study is that even apparently minor abnormalities in a proconvertase 1 are enough to significantly increase the risk of severe obesity and to lead to excessive weight in the general population.

So what does this mean?

This means that if your PCSK1 gene is mutated, you are probably obese. Just like if your were born with a congenital leptin deficiency.

So, what percentage of the population is walking around with a deformed PCSK1 gene.

We don’t know, and neither do the scientists.

What causes this gene mutation?

We don’t know, and neither do the scientists.

Can this mutation be corrected?

We don’t know, and neither do the scientists.

Should obese individuals rely on science to provide them with a treatment for a potentially rare genetic mutation that most likely did not cause their obesity in the first place?

NO.

oops, sorry, my objectiveness slipped a little..

We don’t know, and neither do the scientists.

The study is published in the journal, Nature Genetics.

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9 comments

  1. Like congenital leptin deficiency, I bet we eventually find out that this gene mutation is extremely rare.

    1 in a million kind of thing.

    Or, we find out that genetically modified corn syrup is responsible for mutating the gene.

    Either way, don’t mess with mother nature.

  2. There are dozens, if not hundreds, of genes that relate to metabolism, appetite, and the like. Any single one doesn’t really have that much of an effect. It will just make it incrementally harder for that person to remain thin — in his environment, living his lifestyle. But since we are humans, not lab rats, we can consider our environment and make changes to it that will counteract our genetic predispositions.

  3. So true,

    It seems that with every ‘discovery’ that science makes concerning obesity/energy regulation/etc, the picture gets cloudier and cloudier.

    The discovery of leptin sent big pharma into a tizzy with dreams of the ultimate fat loss pill.

    Personally, I find this research very interesting. I love to know why our bodies work the way they do, and considering my chosen career, obesity research is particularly fascinating.

    And without Big Pharma paying the tab for research like this, my knowledge of the obesity mechanism would be reduced to slow thyroids and ‘it’s must be your genes’

    But like I always say, genetics isn’t destiny.

    Thanks for the comment Mark.

    By the way, I love Calorielab

  4. Pro-opiomelanocortin, pro-opiomelanocortin, pro-opiomelancortin…. Gee, I like that word a lot. Much nicer than POMC. Can’t wait to drop it into a casual conversation in the doctors lounge at the hospital. Thanks.

    -Steve

  5. I saw a website recently (sorry I can’t find it right now) that was saying a large part of the weight problem is parasites (bear with me on this).

    Due to toxic load on our bodies, parasites that were once quite benign are moving to different parts of our bodies and causing problems. The toxins that they excreate induce our body to create more stored fat which they feed on.

    I have come across the idea of parasites affecting our health before so that part is not new to me, but I had not heard about them affecting our weight like that. I can’t confirm or deny, just passing it on for consideration.

  6. Interesting theory.

    I am aware of the theory of the body using body-fat as a kind of fatty prison for toxins, heavy metals, etc..

    I would be curious to see that info if you can find the site.

  7. OK, I’ll see if I can find it again. However the Hulda Clark anti-cancer protocol (www.drclark.net) is very much into clearing parasites from the body due to the damage that they do (not just for weight problems).

    Although the Clark protocol can be very effective against cancer, it is also very difficult to follow. I know as my partner had been following it: (http://blog.advancedsilversolution.com/2008/04/24/dr-clarks-cancer-protocol/)

    I hope this helps.

    Charlie

  8. I think I’m in pretty much the same camp as Mark.

    Individual discoveries about the mechanisms for metabolism don’t really inform the larger socio-political issues very well at all from my perspective. They mostly just reinforce our existing opinions. There are a number of different pathways by which body fat accumulation can be affected. Most of them have something to do with the expression of genes at some point, but that doesn’t really tell us how much control we might have over the process as a whole.

    People often seem to jump on data points as if they were generallized guidelines for living. It takes more than a couple of new discoveries to derive useful general principles that apply to human lives. Evidence-based health doesn’t mean rushing to try the latest thing used in a study that produced a good outcome. It means understanding the lessons from the trend of like research where multiple different aspects were controlled, different populations used, exceptions plausibly explained, etc..

    For example, if you think some people are fated to be fat, the discovery of genes involved in metabolism will look to you like evidence of that. Even though it was already obvious from that perspective that since proteins are central to both development and metabolism and genes produce proteins, genes are central to both development and metabolism. And doubtless some people do have a much harder time than others controlling their body fat under roughly the same environmental conditions due to the presence (or sometimes perhaps imprinting) of one allele vs. another.

    Then, if you think people control their life through their choices, there are plenty of sound technical reasons to continue to believe that people can alter or compensate for the expression of individual alleles in their lifetime. There are a number of credible success stories of even morbidly obese people “changing their fate” in various ways. No amount of “gene discovery” stories can make the reality of those people go away. Nor can wishful thinking alone make the obesity problem go away.

    The fact that it is difficult to derive many truly general rules from the successes is what makes personal health more art than science at present, I think. Things that seem to work for one person often seem to have the opposite effect in others, and it often isn’t obvious why.

    I believe strongly in a personal experimental approach, especially one where you start with a good guess based on a successful and reasonable program you can follow in the long run and then make small changes to get it working for you and observe the results.

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