07/12/2009 14:19 GMT | Updated 22/05/2015 10:12 BST

Missing DNA May Be The Reason Behind Some Childhood Obesity

Children who suffer from serious obesity may be able to attribute it to missing DNA, according to researchers. The missing DNA is reported to give children very high hunger levels.

The findings come from British researchers, who studied a group of 300 children weighing at least 220 lbs by the age of 10. The research looked at their DNA, searching for missing elements or duplications.

The findings led to them discovering several rare deletions that may have some relation to childhood obesity, and they further researched one kind which is found to be in 1 per cent of 12,000 seriously obese children.

That particular deletion is chromosome 16, which can remove a gene that the brain needs to respond to Leptin, the appetite-controlling hormone.
The findings are reported by Dr. Sadaf Farooqi of Cambridge University, and mean that children without this chromosome are very hungry all the time. The findings have already benefited 4 children, whose parents were accused of overfeeding them. The British child welfare authorities have been alerted to this chromosome, and two of the sets of parents have been taken off investigation. The other two cases are being reconsidered.

Dr. Sadaf Farooqi commented that "It's a slightly unusual outcome of our research, but one we think is very important"

Scientists have previously believed that damaged DNA could lead to overweight children, but this is the first time that missing DNA has been put forward as a cause.

Another expert, Eric Ravussin, who is not part of the research but is an obesity expert at the Pennington Biomedical Research Center in Baton Rouge, suggested that the work provides "a gold mine of information." Identifying specific chromosome areas that scientists can explore can help discover more obesity-related genes.