We inherit bad fat from our fathers and good fat from mothers, study finds

The finding could pioneer treatment for obesity & illnesses linked to it, researchers say.


In a remarkable new find, researchers have pinpointed a gene called ‘H19’ that protects the body against obesity. The gene could also influence illnesses associated with being overweight – diabetes, cardiovascular disease among them.

The bulk of our genes (nearly 99 percent of them) are inherited from both parents in a pair, with one allele, or variant, of the gene from each parent.

The H19 gene, however, belongs to the other one percent, scientists have found. This small minority of genes is inherited exclusively from either mother or father, and are 'mono-allelic'.

The new study offers insight into how H19 contributes to fat burning in mice, was published in Nature Communications on Thursday, 6 September.

To observe how the H19 gene works, researchers tried altering and disrupting the gene in obese mice.

We inherit bad fat from our fathers and good fat from mothers, study finds

Representational image. AFP

When the H19 gene was overactivated, they found a higher number of ‘brown' fat cells; this variant of fat can burn calories far more quickly than its stubborn sister, the ‘white' fat cell.

The brown cells that H19 regulates were found to have a protective effect on mice against growing obese or developing insulin resistance.

The study also found the H19 gene – based on brown fat content in the mice – were passed on from our mothers.

The genes that were passed down from fathers were the ones involved in building white fat tissue in the body. These white fat cells build up around stomach, thighs and glutes and contribute to both obesity and the illnesses that follow, the study explains.

In the view of the study’s authors, this could be step one towards developing effective therapies to treat people that are obese or have complications from being overweight.

"Our results can be the first step towards developing groundbreaking new and improved treatments for obesity-related diseases," Professor Jan-Wilhelm Kornfeld, author of the study, said to the university press.

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