Thursday, April 18, 2019

Discovering the Gene for Appetite

A recent article published in the New York Times reveals that there is a gene that plays a role in appetite suppression and predisposition to obesity. A recent study has discovered that the MC4R gene plays a vital role in hunger regulation and the feeling of fullness. There are essentially three types of possible phenotypes for this gene. The normal phenotype would be a typical appetite that signals you to eat when hungry and stop eating when you've had the correct amount of food. There is a mutation in this MC4R gene that causes some people to have this gene turned off. This causes them to never feel full and they keep eating because they never receive a signal to stop. These are the people that are at a greater genetic disposition for obesity. However, there is also another alteration to this gene that causes it to be constantly turned on. This leads to affected individuals feeling full prematurely and, as a result, they do not eat as much or desire food as much as the formerly affected individuals. This leaves this group of mutants thin and less likely to develop diseases like diabetes and heart disease. 

Like many, I have always known that predisposition for obesity was related to genetics. However, I think the vast majority of people believe this is related to metabolism, which you often inherit from your parents. To find out that this may have little to do with genetic weight gain is very interesting. It makes me wonder if the mechanism of these appetite suppressor drugs for weight loss involves turning off the MC4R gene. It also raises the question over whether as many people would look down upon these appetite pills if they knew that there was a legit genetic reasoning behind the use of the pill.

1 comment:

  1. I find the topic of obesity through inheritance interesting because it also brings up the debate of nature vs. nurture. I always believed that your environment also plays an important role in your life style and weight is something that could be monitored with diet and exercise. But after reading your article, I found it interesting how a mutation can alter the body's signal of being full. Although this mutation increases the chances of obesity, I still believe there are ways an individual can tell their body that they are full. For instance, portion sizes and serving yourself the appropriate amounts of food each meal and only eating that amount, or drinking water with each meal or throughout the day to make your body feel full.