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Research news from the Friedman School of Nutrition Science and Policy at Tufts University

Genetics Research Unlocks a Key Regulator of Weight in Women

"He can eat like a horse." "She eats like a bird."

Recently, Jose Ordovas, PhD, and colleagues shed some light on a genetic factor in obesity. Ordovas, director of the Nutrition and Genomics Laboratory at the Jean Mayer USDA Human Nutrition Research Center on Aging at Tufts University uncovered two variants in the perilipin gene that influence body weight in white women.

The perilipin gene determines how much perilipin protein is produced and perilipin protein, in turn, controls the breakdown of fat within the cell. More perilipin means more fat is stored in the cells. Research to date has shown that people with more perilipin protein store more fat. Ordovas and his colleagues have identified two variations at the perilipin gene locus which appear to affect the expression or activity of the perilipin proteins.

"Our findings show that variations in the perilipin gene locus may play a role in determining obesity risk in women," said Ordovas, a leading nutrigenomics scientist. "Perilipin is the guardian of the fat cell, a kind of moat that determines how frequently the drawbridge is used to release fat if the drawbridge isn't used, fat stays stored."

Ordovas compared four common variants found at the perilipin gene site with measurements of body fat percentage and waist circumference in over 700 white men and women. Women with two of the genetic variations tended to have higher body fat and greater waist circumference than women with the other variants. Men's body shape and size did not appear to be affected by the same variants in the gene. The researchers think that this may be due to hormonal differences between men and women .

"Our data show that the perilipin gene locus may be a significant genetic determinant for obesity risk in white women," continued Ordovas, who is also a professor at the Friedman School of Nutrition Science and Policy at Tuft
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Contact: Siobhan Gallagher
siobhan.gallagher@tufts.edu
Tufts University
10-Feb-2005


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