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Weight-Loss Surgery May Alter Genes And Promote A Healthier Metabolism

Apr 12, 2013 01:30 PM EDT
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Diabetes cases reach 422 million as poorer countries see steep rises

Weight loss following gastric bypass surgery may change more than people's waistlines - it may actually change their genes.

A study published in the journal Cell Press describes an experiment in which scientists were able to identify a total of 11 out of 14 genes already known to be abnormal in obese patients, that normalized after the post-surgery weight loss occurred.

In particular, the DNA methylation found at genomic regions responsible for regulating metabolic function and insulin sensitivity was shown to change so as to reflect that of a person of healthy weight, which in turn explains why those who undergo the procedure often undergo rapid and durable remission of type 2 diabetes.

As study co-author Juleen Zierath told Fox News, "The DNA itself doesn't change, but the way in which the code is marked by chemical tags is changed."

The finding reverses the belief that chemical marks on DNA are necessarily fixed and offers hope to those whose genes have been "damaged" by excess lipids, or fats, in the blood as well as high levels of cytokines, which mark inflammation. Both of these negatively affect how the body functions when found in high concentrations, including its ability to burn fat and store sugar correctly.

"When people lose weight, inflammation and blood lipids decrease, and cease to attack the muscle as much," she further explained to the news outlet. When this happens, muscles are able to reprogram themselves to build up the proteins so crucial for burning fat and storing sugar.

"You can take some control over your genetic destiny," she said.

In all, the study included 14 patients (eight women and six men) both before they underwent Roux-en-Y bypass surgery and six months later, as well as 16 normal-weight glucose-tolerant women the same age as the obese women.

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