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Don’t fret about the beer belly, blame it on the genes

Naples, Jan. 16 (Reuters): Beer lovers around the world raise your glasses — it might not only be how much you drink that determines the size of your beer belly, it could be your genes.

A team of Italian scientists has linked a gene, known as DD and present in about 40 per cent of the population, to abdominal weight gain in men.

In a study published earlier this month in the medical journal, Annals of Internal Medicine, researchers monitored some 300 male factory workers over a 20-year period and found that DD carriers put on 50 percent more weight — an average 4.5 kg against 3.0 kg for non-carriers.

“Some people, despite their sacrifice of looking at calories and trying to exercise as much as they can, tend to put on fat because they are genetically susceptible,” research leader Pasquale Strazzullo, from the Federico ll University of Naples Medical School, told Reuters.

“And weight gain around the stomach is the way it goes, particularly for males,” the trim doctor explained at his office in a Naples hospital.

The first set of figures collected in 1975 did not include waist measurements, so in the 1994-95 data gathering Strazzullo took this measurement and widened his sample to about a thousand workers to calculate more accurately just how much bellies had ballooned.

He found the waist of a DD carrier grew by an average of nearly 3 cm over 10 years, compared to just under 1 cm for those men without the gene.

The team also found around 52 per cent of the DD men were overweight compared to almost 44 per cent of non-carriers.

“Obesity is a big jigsaw and this study is a small piece we have slotted into place,” Strazzullo said.

“Two gene variants have already been linked to weight gain but they are actually rare. The interest with this study is that the DD gene occurs in about 40 per cent of the population.”

The World Health Organisation estimated that in 2000 there were some 300 million obese people worldwide, a leap from 200 million just five years earlier.

“The obesity epidemic is difficult to face because everything in our society tempts us to put on weight.

“What we eat and how much we exercise does matter, but there is a genetic tendency for some individuals,” Strazzullo said.

Despite the new evidence linking DD to weight gain, Strazzullo says only half the mystery has been solved.

Now scientists must try to unravel exactly how the process works.

“It is not excluded that in a few years we will know the mechanism of this association and we may find...a drug to counteract the effect, but at this time it is very premature.”

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