In this week's New England Journal of Medicine, there is an interesting study looking at the brain-derived neurotrophic factor (BDNF) and its relation to obesity. BDNF is a protein encoded by the BDNF gene. BDNF's role in the brain is to help with learning, higher thinking, and memory, especially long-term memory. Studies have looked at the role of BDNF in energy homeostasis in animals but never in humans.
This study looked at a subset group of individuals with WAGR syndrome, a rare genetic disorder which puts people at risk for eye disorders (Aniridia), certain types of cancers (Wilms tumor based in the kidney), genitourinary anomalies, and mental retardation. In normal people, there are two copies for the BDNF gene, however, those with WAGR syndrome have a deletion in one of the copies, therefore having a lower BDNF. The results showed that all of them with this deletion had onset childhood obesity by age ten and had a strong tendency towards overeating.
The importance of this study is not only looking at genetics but also the role of BDNF on obesity and appetite control. Also to note, BDNF may be indirectly controlled by leptin.
FYI: There is a prospective article in this week's New England Journal of Medicine that may be useful to some readers who are interested in dispelling the myth that obesity is only based on lifestyle choices. The title of the article is "The power of the extreme in elucidating obesity" by Philippe Froguel and Alexandra Blakemore. I just read the first 100 words, and it sounds like an interesting article.