Researchers who identified five new genes linked to belly
fat say their findings could help efforts to develop medicines to treat
obesity or obesity-related diseases such as heart
The investigators looked at more than 57 000 people of European descent and
searched for genes associated with abdominal fat, independent of overall
obesity. They examined more than 50 000 variants in 2 000 genes.
The team pinpointed three new genes associated with increased waist-to-hip
ratio in both women and men, and identified two other genes that appear to
affect waist-to-hip ratio in women only. Waist-to-hip ratio is used to measure
a person's belly fat. It's believed that genetics account for 30% to 60% of
potbelly boosts sudden cardiac death risk
fat is a predictor of obesity-related disease, according to the US Centers
for Disease Control and Prevention.
The new study found that of the two genes that only seem to affect women,
one called SHC1 appears to interact with 17 other proteins known to play a role
in obesity. SHC1 has been found to be highly active in fat tissue.
Read: Type of belly fat matters
Potential risk reduction factor
"This is the first time SHC1 has been associated with abdominal
fat," study author Kira Taylor, an assistant professor at the University
of Louisville School of Public Health and Information Sciences, said in a
university news release.
"We believe this discovery holds great opportunity for medicinal chemistry
and eventually, personalised medicine," Taylor said. "If scientists
can find a way to fine-tune the [activity] of this gene, we could potentially
reduce the risk of excessive fat in the mid-section and its consequences, such
The study was recently published online in the journal Human Molecular Genetics.
Previous research has found that mice without the SHC1 protein are leaner
than those with the protein, the news release noted.
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