The Grapevine

Unhealthy Body Fat Linked To Father's Genes, Study Finds

While brown fat cells can protect against obesity by burning excess calories, too many white fat cells can have the opposite effect, leading to excess weight gain and associated health risks. New findings reveal which parent's genes lead to the development of which type of fat.

The study titled "LincRNA H19 protects from dietary obesity by constraining expression of monoallelic genes in brown fat" was published in the journal Nature Communications on Sept.7.

By examining the gene H19, the research team found it could have a unique protective effect against excess weight gain. This gene is among the monoallelic genes i.e. the one percent of genes which are inherited exclusively from either our mother or father.

According to the researchers, the gene could play an important role in the onset of diseases linked to obesity such as cardiovascular disease, atherosclerosis, liver manifestations of metabolic disease, and type 2 diabetes.

The genes people inherit from their father are linked to white tissue fat which is the type created by our body to store energy when we consume too many calories. This dangerous kind of fat is found on body parts like the stomach and thighs, which can potentially lead to metabolic diseases. 

On the other hand, genes inherited from the mother seem to lead to the development of brown tissue fat. Being the "good" kind of fat, it performs the function of converting the food we consume into body heat.

The findings aid the potential to develop interventions and strategies against diet-induced obesity. In experiments from past studies, for instance, increasing brown fat mass in mice was found to increase the rate at which they burn energy and reduce fat in their bodies. The research team behind the new study said they were "delighted" with the results.

"By using mouse models, we have identified that the gene H19 performs a form of gene control in brown fat cells. We have been able to demonstrate that an overexpression of the H19 gene in mice protects against obesity and insulin resistance," said Professor Jan-Wilhelm Kornfeld from the Department of Biochemistry and Molecular Biology at the University of Southern Denmark.

"In addition, we have been able to detect similar patterns of gene control in obese people. We, therefore, believe that our results can be the first step towards developing groundbreaking new and improved treatments for obesity-related diseases," the professor added.

Earlier this year, Harvard researchers also found that a mother's adherence to an overall healthy lifestyle can help in lowering the risk of obesity in their children. The recommended healthful habits included regular physical activity, eating a nutritious diet, drinking alcohol in moderation, avoiding smoking, and maintaining a healthy body weight.