A team of researchers has identified five new genes associated with increased waist-to-hip ratio, potentially moving a step closer to developing a medication to treat obesity or obesity-related diseases.
A person’s measure of belly fat is reflected in the ratio of waist circumference to hip circumference, and it is estimated that genetics account for about 30-60 percent of waist-to-hip ratio (WHR).
The team led by Kira Taylor from University of Louisville School of Public Health and Information Sciences conducted an analysis of more than 57,000 people of European descent, and searched for genes that increase risk of high waist-to-hip ratio, independent of overall obesity.
They investigated over 50,000 genetic variants in 2,000 genes thought to be involved in cardiovascular or metabolic traits.
Their analysis identified three new genes associated with increased WHR in both men and women, and discovered two new genes that appear to affect WHR in women only.
Of the latter, one gene, SHC1, appears to interact with 17 other proteins known to have involvement in obesity, and is highly expressed in fat tissue. In addition, the genetic variant the team discovered in SHC1 is linked to another variant that causes an amino acid change in the protein, possibly changing the function or expression of the protein.
The study was published in journal Human Molecular Genetics.