How Does Genetics Impact on Hunger?

We all know the difference between feeling “full” or feeling hungry. Clearly, it is lots easier to walk away from the dinner table or buffet line when we feel satiated. Remaining hungry will keep us there seeking more food.

A very interesting study came of the UK recently pinpointing a specific gene involved in hunger vs. satiety: The MC4R gene. The study involved about a half million people and looked at the genetics of the study participants. It was found that the MC4R gene regulated appetite: When functioning correctly, this gene caused a person to be satiated after a certain amount of food. Many obese people were found to have mutations in this gene, essentially shutting the gene’s effects off. These people really could not feel “full” and would consume lots more food than their normal weight counterparts that had a fully functioning MC4R gene.

Additionally, many very thin people had a different type of mutation of the MC4R gene that essentially had the gene “turned on” all of the time. These people did not feel “hunger” at all, and their food consumption was much less than others.

Clearly, based on the above study, there will be attempts by pharmaceutical companies to develop interventions to turn on/augment the effects of the MC4R gene, thereby developing a new intervention for weight loss.

Studies such as this allow all of us to understand much better that people battling a life time of weight control problems are very likely to have genetic issues that contribute greatly to the poor weight control. This is not a simple, mischaracterization of an overweight/obese person as being “weak and lazy”. Genetics dictate lots of who we are/what we look like/what diseases we develop. Weight control is part of this discussion as well.

Dr. Robert Posner One of the world’s leading medical weight loss researchers, Robert Posner, MD, operates his state-of-the-art weight loss clinic, Serotonin Plus, in the heart of Burke, Virginia, in the suburban Washington area.

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