Scientists have discovered a gene they believe may explain why some teenagers binge on food.
Researchers at University College London (UCL)’s Institute of Child Health believe they have identified genetic variations associated with obesity and binge eating.
Scientists analysed the data of 6,000 participants for the study. They found that if young people have a particular variation in the FTO locus (rs1558902) they were 20 per cent more likely to binge eat.
The trait was particularly marked for girls, with 30 per cent more likely to binge if they had the variation.
Dr Nadia Micali, senior lecturer and honorary consultant psychiatrist at UCL’s Institute for Child Health, lead the report. She said of the findings: “This research offers an important first step towards understanding the genetic risk for binge eating and will help inform how we develop strategies to counter the obesity crisis.
“We know variations in the FTO gene can predict binge eating in teenagers, and binge eating in turn can predict obesity.
“Eventually this finding could allow us to develop more targeted treatment for binge eating, and enable much earlier intervention so young people don’t develop obesity.”
It is estimated that around 10 per cent of adults and teenagers binge eat.
The UK has the highest obesity levels in Western Europe.
According to the NHS, obesity levels have more than trebled in the last 30 years and more than half of the population could be obese by 2050.
With additional reporting by PA
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