Study: Body Fat Storage Determined By Genes

Swedish researchers claim to have found genetic factors that determine whether you store your fat around the trunk or in other parts of your body. After conducting a study of more than 360,000 volunteers, the researchers reportedly found nearly a hundred genes that affect the distribution of fat to the different compartments of the human body. The team’s paper, published in the journal Nature Communications, is titled “Genome-wide association study of body fat distribution identifies adiposity loci and sex-specific genetic effects.”

It has long been established that women and men tend to store fat differently. Women generally store fat on the hips and legs while men tend to store fat around the abdomen, but this is not a hard rule. Dr. Mathias Rask-Andersen of Uppsala University, lead author of the study, and the rest of the team set out to test how fat distribution is affected by genes and varies between the sexes.

The information from 362,499 UK Biobank volunteers was used for the study, which analyzed their fat distribution and samples of their blood. Millions of genetic mutations in the blood were reviewed to determine whether they had any influence on where fat was stored in the body. The work led to the discovery of 98 genetic signals associated with fat distribution.

More than 40 percent of the world’s population is considered to be overweight, with 39.8 percent of people in the United States carrying dangerous amounts of weight, according to a Centers for Disease Control and Prevention report covering 2015 and 2016.  The researchers wrote, “Obesity is set to become the world’s leading preventable risk factor for disease and early death due to the increased risks of developing type 2 diabetes, cardiovascular disease, and cancer.”

The scientists hope their findings will lead to new drugs that can help prevent the buildup of fat in specific areas of the body. Dr. Rask-Andersen commented, “The biological systems we highlight in our study have the potential to be used as points-of-intervention for new drugs that are aimed at improving the distribution of body fat and thereby reducing the risk of disease.”