A study into the parts of DNA which influence body shape could lead to new dietary advice and medicines, according to the British Heart Foundation.
The locations of 13 genes which may play a role in influencing body shapes, including “apple” or “pear” shape, have been identified by a UK study in Nature Genetics. They have a stronger effect in women.
The results of the research could help shed light on heart disease and diabetes, as where body fat lies has been shown to affect risk levels.
People who carry more fat around their waists rather than their bottoms and thighs are more likely to suffer from diabetes or heart disease, but why fat accumulates in different places has remained unclear.
The genetic code of more than 77,000 people has been examined by scientists, led by researchers at the Medical Research Council and Oxford University. They looked for genetic regions which could have links to body fat distribution.
The locations highlighted by the research could indicate the underlying body mechanisms which control fat storage, but may only account for a small fraction of the variation in the ratio between waist and hip.
Within the 13 regions are the genes known to be involved in controlling insulin, cholesterol and insulin resistance.
“[This is] the beginning of new insights into to biology of obesity and body shape, which in turn may lead to more targeted approaches to obesity prevention and potentially to the development of new drugs. ” said Dr Ruth Loos, from the MRC Epidemiology Unit in Cambridge.
“But we should not forget that, while the genetic contribution to obesity is substantial, a large part of obesity susceptibility remains down to our lifestyle.”