What May Be the Cause of Obesity (Hint: Not Donuts)

Put down your donut. Scientists have recently discovered how a special gene that causes increased hunger might be at the root of obesity. The variation in the FTO gene can be found in one out six people, and those carrying the gene are 70 times more likely to become obese.

The study, led by Rachel Batterham from University College London, is an important breakthrough in the fight to curb obesity. Basically, people with the "hunger gene" have more ghrelin, a hormone that gives us our appetite, in their blood. On top of that, their brains are also more sensitive to this "hunger hormone."

People are getting excited because there are already ghrelin-suppressant experimental drugs out there. In the meantime, there are other ways to suppress ghrelin, and a high-protein diet is one of them.

So overeating is fuelled, at least in part, by genetics. Each year, 2.8 million of adults die from being overweight or obese — if it were really that easy to just get healthy, this figure wouldn't be so high. Hopefully this study, and others of its kind, will allow us to understand obesity more as a health problem and less as a social and aesthetic faux-pas. We could all afford to be a little more accepting of the non-skinny donut eaters.

Image: uıɐɾ ʞ ʇɐɯɐs on Flickr