Gene Discovery May Tell Why Some Gain Weight and Others Don’t on High-Fat Diets

Ohio State University researchers have found a gene that they say plays a large role in making the body gain weight in response to a high-fat diet.

Mar 5, 2009

Chances are that you know somebody who can pack away the highest-fat foods-marbled steak, cheese, butter, and ice cream-and never gain weight. If you've always shrugged it off and said, "It must be genetic," it turns out that you may be right.

Ohio State University researchers have found a gene that they say plays a large role in making the body gain weight in response to a high-fat diet. Production of the gene, called protein kinase C beta (PKC beta), can be "induced" in fat cells by a high-fat diet, spurring weight gain. (An induced gene is activated by some external factor into performing a certain function.)

Working with laboratory mice, the scientists found that once a 12-week diet high in fat activated the PKC beta gene, the mice rapidly gained weight. However, in mice that had been bred to lack the gene, the same high-fat diet produced little weight gain.

The Ohio State researchers theorize that a high-fat diet signals the PKC beta gene to make the body store more fat, possibly a survival strategy designed to take full advantage of occasions when animals (or humans) were able to hunt or find high-fat foods. 

If researchers can find a way to block the gene from activating in humans, they could prevent the fat-induced obesity that often leads to insulin resistance. It would be yet another treatment that could delay or prevent the onset of type 2 diabetes.

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Categories: Diabetes, Diabetes, Diets, Food, Insulin, Low Calorie & Low Fat, Nutrition Research, Type 2 Issues

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Posted by Anonymous on 5 March 2009

It's not the high amount of fat we eat that makes us fat. I lost weight on a high fat diet that limited carbs. It's carbs turned to fat that makes us fat.

Posted by Steve Parker, M.D. on 6 March 2009

A 2007 article in the Journal of Molecular Medicine exposes a genetic variation that seems to prevent high fat consumption from contributing to overweight in humans. The gene variant may be found in 10-15% of the U.S. population. Consumption of monounsaturated fats, as in olive and canola oil, almost seems to protect against overweight in people who carry this genetic variation. I’m talking about single nucleotide polymorphisms of the apolipoprotein A5 gene, specifically, -1131T>C. But you knew that, right? Nutritional genomics may eventually allow us to customize our food intake to work best with our personal genetic make-up. Here's the reference for the journal article: Corella, Dolores, et al. APOA5 gene variation modulates the effects of dietary fat intake on body mass index and obesity risk in the Framingham Heart Study. Journal of Molecular Medicine, 85 (2007): 119-128. -Steve Parker, M.D.

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