Published: November 5, 2021
Experts believe they may have finally found a way to cure obesity — by tweaking a series of genes known as the ‘hippo’ pathway.
Humans have four genes in the brain, found in a pathway named after the bulbous mammals, that can trigger weight gain.
But a Cambridge University study on fruit flies found if these were switched on they could make the insects gain less weight.
Fruit flies and humans have the same Hippo pathway, and share 75 per cent of their genetic make-up.
Around 35million UK adults are thought to be overweight, figures suggest. In the US 70million adults are fat.
Dr Andrea Brand, a neuroscientist from Cambridge University who carried out the research, told The Sun: ‘When you knock out “hippo” signalling in the brain, the animals get fat, which gives us hope for future treatments.
‘There may be drugs out there already which might have a side effect of boosting these genes and reducing fat.’
In the study, scientists checked a ‘large dataset’ of genes from obese people to see where any may be involved in the process.
They found genes in the ‘hippo’ pathway were more likely to be deactivated in obese people compared to the general population.
To test if these genes were involved in weight gain, they switched them on in fruit flies.
Results showed the insects then gained less weight.
Scientists behind the study said it could help with developing new treatments to treat obesity.
The hippo pathway is known to be involved in regulating the size of organs.
Obese people in the UK are currently offered specialist diets and exercise plans to help them lose weight.
In some cases, they could also be sent for surgery.
Many obese people are genetically predisposed to having more fat stores, studies suggest.
So scientists have always known genetics play a major role in whether a person will become obese, although calorie consumption is still a big factor too.
The study was published in the journal PLoS Biology.
It comes after No10 launched a drive to slim down the nation’s waistlines, with Brits expected to be bribed with cinema tickets and shopping vouchers to lose weight.
The scheme, called FitMiles and unveiled late last month, will see Brits wear Fitbit-style devices to monitor their exercise levels.
It will encourage them to eat healthier, reduce their portion sizes and increase their daily step count.
In return for improving their lifestyle, they will collect points which can be redeemed for vouchers or discounts on items.
Some of the items the Government plans to offer include, discounts on cinema or theme park tickets, shopping vouchers, vouchers for clothes and food, and gym passes.
But one leading commenter slammed the policy as a ‘waste of money’ and example of the continuing infiltration of the nanny-state into people’s lives.
A pilot version of the scheme will be launched in a yet-to-be-announced borough of England in January for six months before being rolled out to the rest of the nation.
Minister for Vaccines and Public Health Maggie Throup unveiled the scheme to MPs in the House of Commons today and said while all adults in the area chosen for the pilot would be able to those living in deprived areas will be specifically targeted.
With a nod to other No10 anti-obesity measures, such as the snack tax, Ms Throup said the Government also wanted to reward ‘good’ actions.
‘Obesity polices cannot be just about sticks, we must also reward healthy behaviours,’ she said.
‘If we get this right it will be good for our NHS, good for our economy, and good for our society.’
WHAT SHOULD A BALANCED DIET LOOK LIKE?
• Eat at least 5 portions of a variety of fruit and vegetables every day. All fresh, frozen, dried and canned fruit and vegetables count
• Base meals on potatoes, bread, rice, pasta or other starchy carbohydrates, ideally wholegrain
• 30 grams of fibre a day: This is the same as eating all of the following: 5 portions of fruit and vegetables, 2 whole-wheat cereal biscuits, 2 thick slices of wholemeal bread and large baked potato with the skin on
• Have some dairy or dairy alternatives (such as soya drinks) choosing lower fat and lower sugar options
• Eat some beans, pulses, fish, eggs, meat and other proteins (including 2 portions of fish every week, one of which should be oily)
• Choose unsaturated oils and spreads and consuming in small amounts
• Drink 6-8 cups/glasses of water a day
• Adults should have less than 6g of salt and 20g of saturated fat for women or 30g for men a day
Source: NHS Eatwell Guide