New research from a genetics study has unveiled at least two new gene variants that increase the risk of "common" childhood obesity, as opposed to the more extreme cases that were more often studied.

"This is the largest-ever genome-wide study of common childhood obesity, in contrast to previous studies that have focused on more extreme forms of obesity primarily connected with rare disease syndromes," said lead investigator Struan F.A. Grant, Ph.D., associate director of the Center for Applied Genomics at The Children's Hospital of Philadelphia. "As a consequence, we have definitively identified and characterized a genetic predisposition to common childhood obesity."

Studies like these are not meant to discount the important contributing factors of dietary choices and lack of exercise, rather, they highlight and examine the facts surrounding the significance of a genetic component to obesity as well.

While adult obesity as been in the spotlight for some time, the rise and serious implications of childhood obesity have prompted alarm in the health community. Obesity is especially dangerous in children since research has suggested that obese adolescents tend to have higher mortality rates when they reach adulthood.

Partly funded by the National Institutes of Health, the research conducted by the Early Growth Genetics (EGG) Consortium, included a meta-analysis of 14 previous studies examining 5,530 cases of childhood obesity and 8,300 control subjects of European ancestry.

While it may be Greek to the layperson, the researchers identified two “novel loci,” one near the OLFM4 gene on chromosome 13, the other within the HOXB5 gene on chromosome 17. There was also some evidence of two other gene variants. They believe that three of the genes may have a role in the intestine, though there exact role in obesity has yet to be determined.

According to Grant, The Center for Applied Genomics at The Children's Hospital of Philadelphia has recruited and genotyped the world's largest collection of DNA from children with common obesity. However, further work is needed, including an international consortium to combine worldwide results for “sufficient statistical power,” according to Grant.

"This work opens up new avenues to explore the genetics of common childhood obesity," said Grant. "Much work remains to be done, but these findings may ultimately be useful in helping to design future preventive interventions and treatments for children, based on their individual genomes."

Author's Bio: 

Jason Knapfel is Content Manager at Webfor, an Internet marketing company. One of their clients is DoctorsofWeightLoss.com, a website that provides expert information on gastric bypass and other weight loss topics.