What once was considered a symbol of wealth and fertility in the century we’re living is a stigma called obesity. None of the two extremes is the ultimate truth.
Back in history, when Peter Paul Rubens was painting overweight women that were considered the landmark of beauty, little did people know about how much damage obesity does to health.
How could they, when the life expectancy at birth was of 30 years? By 30, obesity couldn’t do more damage than everything else. Since life expectancy at birth increased up to 72.2 years in 2017, obesity had the chance to show its dark side. It’s not just a matter of looks, but one of life and death.
Looks bring the stigma. But there is something much worse than social prejudice. Obesity proved to be one of the leading preventable causes of death worldwide. Worldwide, more than 40 million children under 5 are obese, and more than 650 million adults. But there are two types of obesity: syndromic and dietary. While some of the obese people are so as a consequence of poor personal choices, others are subject to failed genetics.
A Protein in the Brain is the Culprit for Obesity
“A lot of people think obesity is a lifestyle choice. That’s just not true in all cases. Some people have mutations of this gene. And if they have mutations of this gene, many cannot control their eating. It’s this receptor causing this issue in the brain,” said Raymond Stevens, USC Provost Professor and director of the Bridge Institute at the USC Michelson Center for Convergent Bioscience, cited by News Medical.
Stevens conducted research looking for mutations in the genes that could cause obesity and found that melanocortin 4 receptor (or MC4R) is the one, or at least one of them. MC4R is supposed to control how much energy is stored as fat in the body.
MC4R was previously discovered and studied for 25 years by scientists at the University of Michigan. They came up with a drug called setmelanotide that can help people suffering from syndromic obesity but doesn’t help much the patients diagnosed with dietary obesity. Roger Cone at the University of Michigan Life Sciences Institute is the world’s expert when it comes to MC4R, and he became senior co-author in Steven’s study that will be released in the journal Science on April 23.