Identification of Unique Proteins That Might be Body Weight Regulators

Genetic factors may account for up to 50% of the diversity in body mass index, or BMI, in the population. A research group from Université Laval and the Quebec Heart and Lung Institute Research Centre uncovered 60 unique proteins produced in the brain that may be essential regulators of body weight by analyzing the genomes of over 800,000 individuals of European origin.

This study looked into the relationship between genetic areas linked to body weight and the proteins produced in the brain.

Previous study showed that hundreds of genetic regions influence body weight. In most cases, the function of these genes remains unknown. Our study reports that about 60 of these genes encode proteins that could influence body weight via their expression in the brain.”

Éloi Gagnon, Study First Author and Doctoral Student, Clinical and Biomedical Sciences, Faculty of Medicine, Université Laval

The research concentrates on a brain region that may regulate food reward sensitivity like the excitement felt when eating fatty or sugary foods, as well as cognitive processes such as decision-making and memory. The dorsolateral prefrontal cortex is also known to be involved in appetite and satiety.

The findings support the concept that the brain plays an important role in body weight management. This research could explain why BMI fluctuates so much from person to person.

According to lead author Benoît Arsenault, Professor at the Université Laval Faculty of Medicine and Researcher at the Quebec Heart and Lung Institute, various misconceptions about the impact of genetic factors on body weight persist in the public realm. “I often hear that genes cannot explain why the average weight of the population has increased over the past 40 years when our genes have not changed,” he adds.

Genetics and the Food Environment

Scientists believe that the changing food environment has altered dietary behaviors and energy storage capacity during the last few decades.

Individuals with a genetic predisposition to an elevated body weight have a higher weight than before, whereas individuals who do not have this predisposition were thin before and are still thin today.”

Benoît Arsenault, Professor, Faculty of Medicine, Université Laval

The group feels that further research into the biological relevance of these proteins in various areas of the brain and their contribution to energy homeostasis, or the balance between food intake and energy expenditure, is needed.

Overall, the results of our study support the existence of a potential interaction between the brain proteome and the evolving food environment. This relationship could influence eating behaviors and energy storage,” adds Professor Arsenault.

He emphasizes that individuals who live in larger bodies are frequently victims of prejudice and may face discrimination, intimidation, or stigmatization. These fatphobia-related events could have physical and psychological consequences.

Several studies have also revealed that factors beyond control, such as genetics, account for a significant fraction of body weight fluctuation across the population, according to the researcher.

Weight is not a choice. Neither is it a lifestyle habit. We don’t have elevated body weight because we are lazy or lack willpower. Unconscious neuronal mechanisms are at play. The brain is the one in charge. I hope that the results of this study can partly explain why body weight varies so much from one person to another.”

Benoît Arsenault, Professor, Faculty of Medicine, Université Laval

Journal reference:

Gagnon, E., et al. (2023). Genetic control of body weight by the human brain proteome. IScience.


The opinions expressed here are the views of the writer and do not necessarily reflect the views and opinions of AZoLifeSciences.
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