Media Release: 15 December 2009
Solving the obesity epidemic will not come down to changes in diet and exercise alone according to a leading international researcher on the genetics of obesity, Professor Stephen O’Rahilly from Cambridge University. Genetic influences on appetite and weight are profound and may pave the way toward more targeted and effective therapies for weight management says Prof O’Rahilly.
In a lecture at the Garvan Institute of Medical Research on 15th December, Prof O’Rahilly, the 2009 Garvan International Fellow, will explain why some people are more likely to gain weight as a result of their genes.
Australia is one of the most overweight developed nations. About one in two Australian adults and up to one in four children is either overweight or obese; putting them at increased risk of heart disease, diabetes and cancer.
“Poor diet and lack of exercise take much of the blame for these statistics; however research is now telling us that genes play a major role, perhaps even the major role, in determining a person’s body size,” Professor O’Rahilly says.
Prof O’Rahilly is a world expert in the genetics of obesity and type 2 diabetes. His studies and treatment of extreme cases of these diseases from all over the world has led to the discovery of several previously unrecognized genetic causes of obesity, including some that are amenable to treatment. Mutations in these genes can result in early-onset obesity, and are often associated with disruptions in appetite control.
After height, body mass index is the second most heritable body feature – up to 70% of body size can be genetic. A greater understanding of how genes regulate body weight and appetite will assist in the prevention and treatment of obesity and overweight.