A baby's 'genetic score' could predict adult obesity

New research discovers genetic obesity markers in newborns

Topics: Behavioral Health, Service Lines, Pediatrics, Women's Services

June 19, 2013

Northwestern University researchers have identified 45 genetics markers that predict adult obesity and could be used to guide preventive health efforts from a young age.

The researchers presented their preliminary findings last week at The Endocrine Society's annual meeting.

For the study, Northwestern pediatric endocrinologist Reeti Chawla and colleagues examined data on more than 4,400 newborns and their mothers' blood sugar levels. The researchers were able to identify 45 genetic markers commonly found in newborns with large birth weights—generally considered 8 pounds 13 ounces or heavier—that were linked with obesity in adults.

"Obesity is such a complex trait that obviously has a lot of environmental components, but it appears babies born large have an increased risk for obesity later in life," Chawla told U.S. News & World Report.

Chawla says the findings may lead to "genetic score" that allow physicians to determine the obesity risk of newborns.  

"I think we'll be able to say 'Maybe we need to follow these kids more closely,' or 'Maybe the weight guidelines should be different for those newborns,'" Chawla said (Koebler, U.S. News & World Report, 6/18).

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