What to Read Next

Childhood obesity is in the genes, say researchers

Carolyn Morris
Shine On
April 10, 2012

Kids who overeat and under-exercise might have a good excuse, thanks to science — those bad habits could be genetic. In a study published this month in the journal Nature Genetics, researchers identified two genetic variants linked to common child obesity.

"We see a clear genetic signature to childhood obesity, showing that there is more than just an environmental component to this disease," Struan Grant, lead researcher and associate director at The Children's Hospital of Philadelphia, tells HealthDay.

While past research has made a genetic link to cases of extreme obesity, what's new is that genes could be playing a major role in the common cases of obesity, which has mostly been blamed on bad diet and a lack of exercise.

Related: Gene mutation tied to autism risk in children, scientists say

The researchers in this study looked at the results of 14 different genome-wide studies, with a total of 5,530 obese and 8,318 non-obese children, all of European extraction. They found associations with two locations that had not previously been linked to obesity — the OLFM4 gene, appearing on chromosome 13, and the HOXB5 on chromosome 17 — as well as some evidence for the implication of two other genetic variants.

"This is the largest-ever genome-wide study of common childhood obesity," says Grant, "in contrast to previous studies that have focused on more extreme forms of obesity primarily connected with rare disease syndromes."

"As a consequence, we have definitively identified and characterized a genetic predisposition to common childhood obesity."

The new discovery comes at a critical time, with childhood obesity on the rise internationally — including in Canada, where the rates of childhood obesity have almost tripled over the last few decades. These days, over 26 per cent of children between the ages of  two and 17 are either overweight or obese.

Related: Parents take girls outside to play less often than boys: study

This research brings us closer to understanding why so many kids are dangerously overweight.

"Once the picture gets increasingly clear we can start addressing gene-environment interactions," Grant tells TIME. "Post that, we should be in a position to start tailoring lifestyle and dietary advice to children based on their genetic make-up. These genetic 'signposts' give us novel insights in to the biology of childhood obesity, which in turn presents us with new intervention opportunities through the development of more effective therapies."

According to Eric Schadt, the chairman of genetics and genomic sciences at Mount Sinai School of Medicine in New York, we're at the very early stages of understanding the genetics of obesity in children.

"This is a disease that has genetic components and very strong environmental components," he tells HealthDay. "It's very, very complicated. We're only scratching the surface of genetic determinations of childhood obesity."

Surprising Rule Helps People In Credit Card Debt

Discover how these federal changes are keeping consumers safe and helping people pay off credit card debt faster.

Heartburn During Pregnancy

Dealing With Pregnancy is Hard Enough. Getting Heartburn While Pregnant is a Pain. Learn What Causes Heartburn During Pregnancy.

What Are The Pros & Cons Of A Reverse Mortgage?

More Americans are accessing their home equity to support their retirement years. Speak with a professional and see what you may qualify for today.

How Older Men Tighten Their Skin

Men, reduce the look of wrinkles, sagging skin and fine lines with this affordable and effective skin tightening treatment without leaving your home.

Starwood Credit Card

Earn 25,000 Bonus Starpoints®! Use toward Award Nights or Flights.

Your second chance to enroll in Medicare & Medigap

Never heard of the Medicre General Enrollment Period? Read this to find out how it could benefit you.

Time is Running Out

Just 7 days remain to enter for a shot at $5,000 A Week “Forever.”

Earn Cash Back On Dining Out.

It's easy to save money in the new year when you get cash back on all purchases. Learn more about simple and flexible credit card rewards here.

VA Mortgage Rates In 2016

VA Rates as Low as 2.75% (3.028% APR) 15 Year Fixed. Exclusive For Veteran & Military Takes 1 Min!

Insane Navy Seal Flashlight, should it be banned?

The Military has recently released technology that is now available to the public. Get yours before they run out - Limited Supply!

Is your insurance comp Laughing Behind Your Back?

New Studies Show that if you drive less than 55 miles a day you can save a ton on auto insurance.

Banks Are Worried Homeowners Will Do This.

Homeowners are surprised and furious. If you owe less than $625,000 on your home, you better read this.

The Ultimate Tool For Self Defense? (Crazy Strong)

Forget guns, every household should own one of these military grade ShadowHawk flashlights. You need to see this in action (Limited Supplies Left).

“It works. Officers were at my home in minutes."

Built by the leading engineers in the country with revolutionary wireless technology... Engineered to make your home feel like a fortress...