Key gene discovery for obesity and diabetes

KLF14 is a gene thought to act like a “Master Switch” for controlling other genes in body fat. The MuTHER study is a large multi-national collaboration and used fat biopsies from under the skin or subcutaneous fat samples from 800 female twin subjects and confirmed that KLF14 was controlling distant gene expression levels in other genes found in the fat tissue with 600 samples from a separate group of people. KLF14 controls traits that in turn affect metabolic syndrome, obesity and type 2 diabetes. This finding may help understand the causes of obesity and its related diseases and how

Our Microbial Self – does it determine our weight?

Scientists in Denmark note a difference in bacterial colonies and number of bacterial genes between lean and overweight or obese individuals. Is this a cause or result? Old Danish question – do storks bring babies or do babies simply arrive 9 months after most people go on vacation?
Interesting facts about the microbes that live inside us
100 trillion microbial cells in the human gut – 10 times more than body cells. Most of us have about 160 different species with two families dominating, Bacteroidetes and Firmicutes. The amount and ratio of these types in the gut appear to be associated with the weight of the person. Add fiber to your diet, increase fruit and vegetables, include probiotic rich foods like yogurt or sauerkraut for a healthy weight.

Food – A Cheap and Legal Addiction for Some

Functional MRI (fMRI) is rather like using Google Earth. It helps us to delve deeper into our understanding of how certain triggers activate centers in the brain associated with cravings and addictive behaviors. A recent study from Yale University published in Archives of General Psychiatry finds that women who completed a questionnaire that identifies substance dependence behaviors around food also responded to seeing and tasting a glass of chocolate milk shake. The reward centers were triggered by this cue just like cocaine in a drug addict. Maybe this is why it is so hard for people to diet – there are just too many cues around in our environment. Further studies will look at how much of this is learned rather than genetic. For most people it is probably a combination of both genes and environment.

The value of sleep as an obesity preventer

Sleep is restorative and vital for our health. What scientists at Harvard have learned is that it is also important for preventing obesity.

Just when it seemed easy in genomics…

Just as we thought we had the human genome identified and sorted – even though each individual whole genome sequence (WGS) has about half a million unique characteristics there is a whole new arena to discover.  The number of microbes that live on and in us now are thought to have profound effects on our internal metabolism.  Estimates vary but J Craig Venter, someone worth listening to, estimates that there are 200 trillion microbes providing 10 million extra genes.  Animals raised in germ free environments have significantly different metabolisms.  Sandrine Claus in a new study notes that mice raised in this way who were then exposed to bedding of mice with normal microbiota (their digestive systems had the usual amount of probiotics or additional genetic contribution from microorganisms) showed rapid increases in weight and changes in liver metabolism.   Food for thought.

Warning about Potential for Intestinal Blockage by Juicing Whole Citrus Fruit!

Today I had a patient who had recently been admitted to hospital with a painful and frightening intestinal blockage. I delved and learned that she had been juicing vegetables and adding one or two whole lemons and sometimes a whole orange to the juicer. I was telling a colleague who had suffered the same experience although didn’t have to be actually admitted to the hospital and realized he had also juiced two lemons the day before. Please be aware that bezoars (the technical word for a mass that forms and can block the intestinal tract) can form from the white pith of citrus fruit.  These are sometimes called phytobezoars to distinguish them as having a plant origin.  You need a separate citrus juicer to avoid this happening!  Please pass this information on – it is especially relevant for anyone who has previous gastric surgery.

See a full report – Bezoars and orange pith Report

The value of smart health assessment

Despite high hopes of genome wide assessment studies providing useful knowledge the results have been disappointing to say the least. Except for rare genetic variations the chronic diseases that are amenable to diet change are elusive using this technique alone. That is why it takes a validated questionnaire format to determine family health history and current health status to make meaningful recommendations. Please visit and answer the questionnaire to receive your free recommendations.

Is Polluted Air a trigger for Obesity?

Stress of many types appears to be linked to obesity apparently due to its link with inflammation.  Researchers at Ohio State University have identified another source of obesity related stress as polluted air.   Mice exposed to particulate air polution (seven times higher than typical ambient air in Columbus, OH) gained weight whether they were on a normal diet or a high fat diet.   A study investigating the link of polluted air early in life with overweight and obesity looked at mice over a period matching childhood in humans.  The mice also developed insulin resistance and had higher levels of a marker of inflammation TNF-alpha. Pollution may act as a trigger for obesity like other stressors. If so, this may be yet another reason why moving to urban areas is associated with weight gain.

Source:  Arterioscler Thromb Vasc Biol, Dec 2010; 30: 2518 – 2527

Is your bedroom TV making you fat?

Thought provoking study suggests that having a bedroom that isn’t completely dark such as sleeping with the TV on may be linked to weight gain and insulin resistance. Simple remedy that may be effective in helping with maintaining a healthy weight is to remove the TV from the bedroom! Light-dark cycles are known to be associated with melatonin release and this in turn is associated with tryptophan uptake in the brain. Tryptophan is an unusual amino acid and is taken up by the brain most rapidly when other amino acids circulate at lower levels such as after a carbohydrate only meal – maybe its not just the TV light but maybe that triggers cravings for soda and chips too. This study looked at mice (admittedly not humans but easier to control!) and found that exposure to a relatively dim light at night over 8 weeks caused a 50% greater weight gain than in mice who had a standard light-dark cycle.

French researcher J Le Magnen back in the 1980’s described fat building (lipogenesis) in association with dark cycles of rats contrasted to fat burning (lipolysis) during the light cycle. His findings were controversial at the time but maybe we should look again at how obesity may be not just about what we eat but how well we sleep.


“Neurobiology of feeding and nutrition” by Jacques Le Magnen

Academic Press, 1992

Are we any closer to obesity gene therapy? Maybe a little

Two new studies published in Nature Genetics move us closer to identifying gene variants that increase risk of obesity. 18 previously undescribed regions included and confirmation of 14 other regions associated with BMI (Obesity is a BMI of 30 or greater). Unfortunately this doesn’t predict obesity any better than a good family health history. It isn’t the genes that are causing the current epidemic of obesity but how we are adapting to our current environment (fast food 24/7 and much less physical activity).