Obesity: Current study confirms association
Obviously, the human genome can be influenced by being overweight. This is suggested by an international study led by the Helmholtz Zentrum München and the Imperial College London, in which more than 10,000 Europeans were involved. The scientists examined possible connections between obesity and epigenetic changes. They took blood samples and determined the body mass index (BMI). The BMI is a common measure for estimating body weight and indicates the ratio of weight (in kg) to body size (in m to square).
While the genes themselves hardly change, the lifestyle can directly influence the environment of the stored genetic information. This also includes an excessive body weight, which is often associated with complications such as diabetes, cardiovascular and metabolic diseases.
Specifically, the team of scientists examined at which points in the DNA so-called methyl groups were present. These are small chemical groups that regulate the accessibility of certain genes. Such changes in the epigenome (this describes all states around the genes) result in genes being read more or less without changing the stored information. In this way, cells can control when and in what quantities which proteins are produced.
The evaluation of the data has shown that a too high BMI at 187 places in the genome leads to epigenetic changes. Above all, they were genes that are responsible for fat metabolism and mass transfer. Genes that are involved in inflammatory processes were also affected. Further studies showed that a large part of these changes was not the cause but the result of being overweight. This also applied to the epigenome of cells in the adipose tissue. Even epigenetic markers to assess the risk of type 2 diabetes could be identified.
Research in this area will continue, the scientists write in the journal Nature. Other biologically relevant tissues should be examined carefully. With this background knowledge, it is a long-term goal to be able to predict and prevent type 2 diabetes and other consequences of being overweight. Heike Kreutz, aid