Obesity gene 'linked to happiness'

20 November 2012

A gene that is known to be the major genetic contributor to obesity has been linked to an eight per cent reduction in a risk of depression.

This means that the gene FTO is not just an obesity gene, but a "happy gene" as well, according to the study, which was published in the journal Molecular Psychiatry.

Senior author David Meyre explained that the eight per cent difference is "modest" and it won't make much of a difference when it comes to the day-to-day care of patients.

"But, we have discovered a novel molecular basis for depression," he said.

While past studies have shown a 40 per cent genetic component in depression, attempts to link the condition to a specific gene have been "surprisingly unsuccessful," first author Dr Zena Samaan noted.

This research challenges the common belief that there is a link between obesity and depression: that obese people become depressed because of their appearance or that depressed individuals lead sedentary lifestyles with unhealthy eating habits.

Mr Meyre explained: "We set out to follow a different path, starting from the hypothesis that both depression and obesity deal with brain activity. We hypothesised that obesity genes may be linked to depression."

Posted by Edward Bartel

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