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If you're obese, a single gene may be to blame

One gene "could be fueling the obesity epidemic," according to a study performed on mice.

And while fast food diets and lack of exercise have taken most of the blame, new research on mice suggests that a single gene could be at the root of why some people are overweight.

The study, published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, showed that forms of a gene called ankyrin-B cause fat cells to absorb glucose at a much faster rate than they should, which makes them more than twice the size of normal fat cells.

"We call it fault-free obesity," Vann Bennett, M.D., Ph.D., senior author of the study and George Barth Geller Professor of Biochemistry at Duke University School of Medicine, said in a statement. "We believe this gene might have helped our ancestors store energy in times of famine. In current times, where food is plentiful, ankyrin-B variants could be fueling the obesity epidemic."

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Researchers found that 1.3 percent of Caucasians and 8.4 percent of African Americans carry forms of ankyrin-B, which include millions of Americans.

The study was done on mice, so there's a lot more research on the gene that still needs to be done. Researchers will need to look into the family histories, physical characteristics, and metabolism of those with forms of the gene in order to truly figure out how it will effect people.

"This gene could enable us to identify at-risk individuals who should watch what kind of calories they eat and exercise more in order to keep their body weight under control," Bennett said.

As we've reported in the past, the American diet is isn't very healthy overall. Stephan Guyenet, Ph.D., an obesity researcher and author of The Hungry Brain: Outsmarting the Instincts that Make Us Overeat, told Men's Health that grain-based desserts like cookies and cakes, soda, and pizza are what make up most of the calories we consume.

Even dropping just 5 percent of your current body weight will lessen your chances of winding up with some serious health issues, Samuel Klein, M.D., William H. Danforth Professor of Medicine and Nutritional Science at Washington University School of Medicine, told Men's Health last year.

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