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Genes May Lower Risk of Obesity in Men of West African Descent

But the effect does not seem to apply to women with the same West African ancestry

THURSDAY, June 2, 2016 (HealthDay News) — A new study has identified genetic factors in black men with a strong West African ancestry that are associated with a lower risk of central obesity. But this apparent benefit doesn’t extend to black women, regardless of their lineage. The study findings were published online June 1 in Frontiers in Genetics.

Yann Klimentidis, Ph.D., an assistant professor with the department of epidemiology and biostatistics at the University of Arizona in Tucson, and colleagues looked at genetic data collected by the U.S. National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute. Samples were collected from 4,425 black men and women. The study volunteers were between 45 and 85 years old. The researchers looked for evidence of West African or European ancestry. The study also included body mass index, waist-circumference, and waist-to-hip ratio measurements. The researchers compared genetic factors to these measurements.

Although the investigators found that black men with a high degree of West African ancestry were less likely to have central obesity, it’s not clear which specific genes might offer black men some obesity protection. It’s also not clear how such a genetic background might interact with lifestyle habits, such as diet and exercise, to lessen obesity risk. Or, when those genetic factors are missing, how lifestyle might increase obesity risk.

“Our finding is novel in showing that this protective effect appears to be limited to men,” Klimentidis told HealthDay. “We still need to identify the specific genes that protect African-American men,” Klimentidis added, “and also better understand why women do not benefit in the same way.”

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