How about a DNA kit for obesity?

The Lempert Report
December 28, 2016

Actually it was tried some years ago by a company called CellFire – and I reported on it on TODAY back in December of 2005.

Katie and I took the test and shared our results. A bit ahead of its time and most shoppers were afraid of the concept. Fast forward to 2016 where it’s commonplace for us to spit in a vial and send off our DNA to a lab to find out about our ancestry. 

Now a new study published in the International Journal of Obesity reports that a gene known as the fat mass and obesity-associated gene, or FTO, comes in various slightly different versions and is the first to be linked to obesity by genetic studies. Children exposed to food advertisements are more likely to overeat, especially if they have a specific version of the gene, even when they’re full, putting them at even greater risk of obesity, according to the study team. 

Dr. Diane Gilbert-Diamond, lead study author and assistant professor of epidemiology at Dartmouth College in Lebanon, New Hampshire told Reuters Health that “many people think it’s a matter of self-control, yet our research looks at how food cues motivate consumption.” 

Reuters reports that past research has shown that having a high-risk version of FTO is associated with a 20 percent higher likelihood of being obese. In the current study, 172 children from the Children’s Hospital at Dartmouth-Hitchcock, ages 9 and 10, were tested to determine their version of the gene. Of three versions, 16 percent of kids had the most dangerous one, 18 percent had the version associated with the lowest obesity risk and 48 percent had a moderate-risk version. In the whole group, 26 percent of kids were obese. 

The kids who saw the version of a television show with food ads, including one ad for gummy candy, ate an average of 48 more calories of gummies than the children who saw the toy ads. In terms of extra calories consumed overall, kids with the high-risk version of the gene ate 125 more calories, compared to 59 extra calories for kids with the medium-risk version and three fewer calories among kids with the low-risk version. 

The U.S. food industry spends $1.79 billion on marketing foods to children under 11 each year, according to the Federal Trade Commission.