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There is little debate obesity is a major problem in America today. It affects the young and old, all ethnic groups and both genders. This disease takes on a tragic dimension when we consider children.

Today, it's estimated more than 25 million children are obese or nearly so. This increases their chances of adult obesity which can lead to heart disease, type II diabetes, sleep disorders and high cholesterol.

Central to this health issue is poor diet and lack of exercise. Today kids may get 30 percent or more of their calories from nutritionally poor foods like snacks and sweets.

Many of our public schools could help by providing better choices. Plus - we are becoming a country of the physically "unfit".

It's undeniable the problem is self induced but there's evidence a percentage of these cases may have a genetic origin. Biomedical scientists have identified hundreds of genes affecting caloric intake, appetite and weight.

One newly identified gene is melanocortin 3 receptor or MC3R. It's important in weight control and may be a factor in 5% of obesity cases. Children who had alterations in the MC3R gene ate more of their favorites foods accounting for over 400 extra calories than those without the mutations. We don't understand how this gene behaves and it may be years before we can come up with treatments.

Recent research has also identified a hormone called peptide YY or PYY which signals the brain when we're satiated. Clinical studies show subjects receiving PYY consume significantly fewer calories than control subjects.

This research is crucial in curbing the trend of childhood obesity.

If nothing is done, could this generation of children be the first to have a shorter life span than their parents?

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For more information…

The Centers for Disease Control offer a comprehensive web page calle "Overweight and Obesity: An Overview." It has everything from defining obesity to outlining the factors that contribute to it, to recommendations. It provides extensive links to tools and resources on the web. This is a good place to start.
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Colorado State University website provides a brief overview of obesity genes with some additional useful links.

A published report in the The Journal of Clinical Endocrinology & Metabolism reported the discovery of the association of mutations in the melanocortin 3 receptor with severe obesity in a 13 year old girl and her father.
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A website from the University of Edinburgh has a nice explanation of the role played by Peptid YY in obesity and its potential in the treatment of these disorders.
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Annals of the New York Academy of Sciences published an article entitled "The gut hormone peptide YY regulates appetite."
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National Public Radio has done a story of the discovery of some obesity genes.

The prestigious journal, Science, a publication of the American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS) published a recent commentary and a research article about the discovery of another gene linked to obesity called FTO.
For more information…

 
 

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