Date Published: 18 July 2005

Research identifies gene associated with diabetes and obesity

Health News from the United Kingdom (UK).

Research linking diabetes and obesity to faulty versions of the gene ENPP1 has recently been announced (BBC News, 17th July 2005).

Presence of a faulty version of the gene ENPP1 may disrupt the way the body stores energy and handles sugar by blocking the hormone insulin. This may be identified in individuals by a DNA test. The Imperial College London team told Nature Genetics that spotting the problem early and intervening could save lives.

Reasons for concern about faulty versions of gene ENPP1 include observations that children affected by this have been found to be obese at very early ages - in some cases as young as 5 years old. Faulty versions of ENPP1 were also linked to full-blown type 2 diabetes in the adults.

What can be done if this genetic predisposition is diagnosed early

The author of this study, Dr. Philippe Froguel, said that although this discovery would not lead to a 'magic pill' for curing obesity and type 2 diabetes, it could help in identifying and individuals at increased risk.

It may then be possible to take preventative measures early in the lives of those at risk, in order to reduce burden of ill health and any other social consequences caused by obesity in later life.

Healthy measures to reduce the incidence and impact of diabetes on the younger generations (both as children, and when they get older) could include encouraging food and drinks manufacturers to reduce the sugar and fat contents in food, encouraging individuals to be aware of the content of food and drinks and to select their intake with informed care, and encouraging everyone (but especially families) to enjoy more exercise.

Dr. Froguel said those with a family history of diabetes and obesity should be particularly vigilant with regards to lifestyle.

Why is it important to take the issues of diabetes and obesity seriously

Diabetes and obesity increase the likelihood of potentially fatal diseases such as heart attacks.
The number of people in the UK with diabetes is predicted to reach three million by 2010.

Dr Angela Wilson of Diabetes UK said:

"This research is an important step in helping us unravel the genetics of Type 2 diabetes. We will be following its progress with interest."

Source: Diabetes UK (www.diabetes.org.uk).
For further information see also http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/health/4686611.stm

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