Weight: What’s a gene got to do with it?

Jeanne McCaffery
Jeanne McCaffery (left) speaks to students in her research group about their project. (Kevin Noonan / CAHNR photo)

Many factors contribute to weight gain and loss. There are behavioral and environmental aspects, such as what types of food and how much people choose to eat or the amount of physical exercise they get.

Genetics may also be involved, based on past investigations by Department of Allied Health Sciences Associate Professor Jeanne McCaffery and other researchers. Genetic variants may influence individual dietary preferences, the ability to lose weight and, possibly, susceptibility to obesity-related health problems.

The genetics of eating behavior and the genetics of weight loss are central to several of McCaffery’s research projects in her 15 years of continuous National Institutes of Health (NIH) funding. Ultimately, her work may be useful in treating obesity, which is a known risk factor in type 2 diabetes and cardiovascular disease.

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