Researchers have uncovered three genes that influence whether someone can be obese, but still healthy, the Guardian reports. People who are obese are typically at increased risk of developing type 2 diabetes, heart disease, and liver disease, but some 15 percent to 20 percent of obese people don't have any such health issues, it adds.
"We wanted to ask what is it that allows some people to be overweight and remain healthy," the University of Copenhagen's Haja Kadarmideen says.
He and his colleagues examined the whole-genome expression profiles of liver, muscle, subcutaneous adipose tissue, and visceral adipose tissue of both metabolically healthy obese and metabolically unhealthy obese individuals. As they report in PLOS One, the researchers used a weighted gene co-expression network to build inter- and intra-tissue gene networks. This enabled them to home in on PTPRE, IL-6R, and SLC6A5 as genes that could influence differences in metabolism among obese individuals.
The genes appear to affect how fat is stored, the Guardian notes, adding that fat entering the circulatory system can increase diabetes risk as well as increase fatty deposits near the heart and liver. "This paves the way for being able to diagnose, develop drugs and target treatment at the specific genes," Kadarmideen adds.