Research news from the Friedman School of Nutrition Science and Policy at Tufts University

February 10, 2005

Genetics Research Unlocks a Key Regulator of Weight in Women

"He can eat like a horse." "She eats like a bird."

Recently, Jose Ordovas, PhD, and colleagues shed some light on a genetic factor in obesity. Ordovas, director of the Nutrition and Genomics Laboratory at the Jean Mayer USDA Human Nutrition Research Center on Aging at Tufts University uncovered two variants in the perilipin gene that influence body weight in white women.

The perilipin gene determines how much perilipin protein is produced and perilipin protein, in turn, controls the breakdown of fat within the cell. More perilipin means more fat is stored in the cells. Research to date has shown that people with more perilipin protein store more fat. Ordovas and his colleagues have identified two variations at the perilipin gene locus which appear to affect the expression or activity of the perilipin proteins.

"Our findings show that variations in the perilipin gene locus may play a role in determining obesity risk in women," said Ordovas, a leading nutrigenomics scientist. "Perilipin is the guardian of the fat cell, a kind of moat that determines how frequently the drawbridge is used to release fat - if the drawbridge isn't used, fat stays stored."

Ordovas compared four common variants found at the perilipin gene site with measurements of body fat percentage and waist circumference in over 700 white men and women. Women with two of the genetic variations tended to have higher body fat and greater waist circumference than women with the other variants. Men's body shape and size did not appear to be affected by the same variants in the gene. The researchers think that this may be due to hormonal differences between men and women .

"Our data show that the perilipin gene locus may be a significant genetic determinant for obesity risk in white women," continued Ordovas, who is also a professor at the Friedman School of Nutrition Science and Policy at Tufts. "Understanding more about these genetic variations will contribute to our ability to create effective treatments for obesity."

Qi, L., Shen, H., Larson, I., Schaefer, E., Greenberg, A., Tregouet, D., Corella, D., Ordovas, J., Obesity Research, 2004 Nov: 12 (11): 1758-1765 "Gender-Specific Association of a Perilipin Gene Haplotype with Obesity Risk in a White Population."

Qi, L, Corella, D., Sorlí, J.V., Portolés, O., Shen, H., Coltell, O., Godoy, D., Greenberg, A.S., Ordovas, J.M. Clinical Genetics, 2004 Oct;66 (4):299-310, "Genetic variation at the perilipin (PLIN) locus is associated with obesity-related phenotypes in White women."

Researchers In Quest of Osteoporosis Prevention Find Benefits In Vitamin B12

It can't be said enough: an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of bone. An estimated 40% of women and 13% of men are at high risk of an osteoporotic fracture in their lifetime. When these fractures occur in older individuals, quality of life can decrease, sometimes dramatically. Osteoporosis is also associated with higher mortality. New research conducted by Katherine Tucker, PhD, director of the Dietary Assessment and Epidemiology Research Program at the Jean Mayer USDA Human Nutrition Research Center on Aging at Tufts, examined dietary factors in relation to osteoporosis and uncovered a positive association between vitamin B12 and bone health. In other words, the authors conclude that vitamin B12 deficiency may be an important modifiable risk factor for osteoporosis.

"Osteoporosis is becoming a much greater issue now that people are living so much longer," said lead author Tucker, also a professor at the Friedman School of Nutrition Science and Policy at Tufts. "Our study provides support for a way in which people can actively lower their risk of osteoporosis and help to preserve quality of life."

Tucker and her colleagues measured bone mineral density--a measure of bone quality--and vitamin B12 level in more than 2,500 men and women participating in the Framingham Osteoporosis Study. They found that both men and women with low vitamin B12 levels had on average lower bone mineral densities--putting them at greater risk of osteoporosis--than men and women with higher levels. The men exhibiting low vitamin B12 levels had significantly lower bone density in several areas of the hip, and the women exhibiting low vitamin B12 levels had particularly low bone density in the spine.

"This is the first large scale study of its kind to show an association between low vitamin B12 and low bone mineral density in men and it confirms other reports of this association in women," said Tucker, "It shows that getting enough vitamin B12 from meats, poultry, fish and dairy products may be important for both men and women in maintaining strong bones. Some individuals, particularly older people, have difficulty absorbing vitamin B12 from foods, however, and inclusion of breakfast cereals fortified with vitamin B12 or use of vitamin B12 supplements offers additional protection."

Tucker K., et al, Journal of Bone and Mineral Research, 2005 Jan;20(1):152-8. "Low plasma vitamin B12 is associated with lower bone mineral density: the Framingham Osteoporosis Study."
-end-
If you are interested in hearing more about any of the studies or speaking with a member of the faculty of the Friedman School of Nutrition Science and Policy or another Tufts health sciences researcher, please contact Siobhan Gallagher via email at Siobhan.Gallagher@tufts.edu.

The Gerald J. and Dorothy R. Friedman School of Nutrition Science and Policy at Tufts University is the only independent school of nutrition in the United States. The school's eight centers, which focus on questions relating to famine, hunger, poverty, and communications, are renowned for the application of scientific research to national and international policy. For two decades, the Jean Mayer USDA Human Nutrition Research Center on Aging at Tufts University has studied the relationship between good nutrition and good health in aging populations. Tufts research scientists work with federal agencies to establish the USDA Dietary Guidelines, the Dietary Reference Intakes, and other significant public policies.

Tufts University

Related Obesity Articles from Brightsurf:

11 years of data add to the evidence for using testosterone therapy to treat obesity, including as an alternative to obesity surgery
New research covering 11 years of data presented at this year's European and International Congress on Obesity (ECOICO 2020) show that, in obese men suffering from hypogonadism (low testosterone), treatment with testosterone injections lowers their weight and improves a wide range of other metabolic parameters.

Overlap between immunology of COVID-19 and obesity could explain the increased risk of death in people living with obesity, and also older patients
Data presented in a special COVID-19 session at the European and International Congress on Obesity (ECOICO 2020) suggests that there are overlaps between the immunological disturbances found in both COVID-19 disease and patients with obesity, which could explain the increased disease severity and mortality risk faced by obese patients, and also elderly patients, who are infected by the SARS-CoV-2 virus that causes COVID-19 disease.

New obesity guideline: Address root causes as foundation of obesity management
besity management should focus on outcomes that patients consider to be important, not weight loss alone, and include a holistic approach that addresses the root causes of obesity, according to a new clinical practice guideline published in CMAJ (Canadian Medical Association Journal) http://www.cmaj.ca/lookup/doi/10.1503/cmaj.191707.

Changing the debate around obesity
The UK's National Health Service (NHS) needs to do more to address the ingrained stigma and discrimination faced by people with obesity, says a leading health psychologist.

Study links longer exposure to obesity and earlier development of obesity to increased risk of type 2 diabetes
Cumulative exposure to obesity could be at least as important as actually being obese in terms of risk of developing type 2 diabetes (T2D), concludes new research published in Diabetologia (the journal of the European Association for the Study of Diabetes [EASD]).

How much do obesity and addictions overlap?
A large analysis of personality studies has found that people with obesity behave somewhat like people with addictions to alcohol or drugs.

Should obesity be recognized as a disease?
With obesity now affecting almost a third (29%) of the population in England, and expected to rise to 35% by 2030, should we now recognize it as a disease?

Is obesity associated with risk of pediatric MS?
A single-center study of 453 children in Germany with multiple sclerosis (MS) investigated the association of obesity with pediatric MS risk and with the response of first-line therapy in children with MS.

Women with obesity prior to conception are more likely to have children with obesity
A systematic review and meta-analysis identified significantly increased odds of child obesity when mothers have obesity before conception, according to a study published June 11, 2019 in the open-access journal PLOS Medicine by Nicola Heslehurst of Newcastle University in the UK, and colleagues.

Obesity medicine association announces major updates to its adult obesity algorithm
The Obesity Medicine Association (OMA) announced the immediate availability of the 2019 OMA Adult Obesity Algorithm, with new information for clinicians including the relationship between Obesity and Cardiovascular Disease, Diabetes Mellitus, Dyslipidemia, and Cancer; information on investigational Anti-Obesity Pharmacotherapy; treatments for Lipodystrophy; and Pharmacokinetics and Obesity.

Read More: Obesity News and Obesity Current Events
Brightsurf.com is a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for sites to earn advertising fees by advertising and linking to Amazon.com.