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Obesity from Rare Disorders

Obesity from Rare Disorders

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We all mostly know that at least 1/3rd of American adults are classified as obese. Most doctors agree that it comes from a combination of poor health education, terrible dental awareness, and cheaper access to fast food and sugary drinks. While obesity can be explained away in this fashion, that is just the most common explanation. There are other causes or obesity. These causes of obesity, though certainly not common, still technically count as a source of obesity.  What kind of rare conditions cause obesity? Can weight loss surgery be a solution for obesity from rare disorders? Or are there other methods of treatment more suited to those rare conditions? Let’s find out.

Monogenic Obesity

It turns out that there is a term that describes all rare conditions that cause obesity.  The term is monogenic obesity. Obesity Facts, the European Journal of Obesity describes it as ” rare and severe early-onset obesity with abnormal feeding behavior and endocrine disorders.”

But that definition is a little too broad. If we further read in the publication, however, they start to list more specific criteria. “This is mainly due to autosomal recessive mutations in genes of the leptin-melanocortin pathway which plays a key role in the hypothalamic control of food intake.”

What they mean is that these rare genetic disorders have to do with a recessive genetic trait. Usually, it involves a gene that controls the regulation of food intake. These mutations only affect 2-3% of children and adults. Also, they usually are co morbid with other conditions. These comorbidities include, “mental retardation, dysmorphic features, and organ-specific developmental abnormalities.”

But because of the nature of genes, it’s not easy to diagnose, let alone manage these disorders. Because, if one part of a genetic sequence goes through a mutation, it affects multiple traits. That’s just how diseases and disorders work.  So, monogenetic obesity can come in different syndromes.

Types of Monogenic Obesity

According to CNN, ” Of the 79 syndromes identified, 19 had the genetics worked out completely. A simple lab test would be able to confirm the condition. Another 11 had been partially clarified. 27 had been mapped to a chromosomal region. For the remaining 22 syndromes, researchers have yet to identify the genes or location along the chromosomes.”

Since there are too many to list, here are a couple of examples below.

Froelich Syndrome

This condition comes from damage to the hypothalamus. It is part of the brain that links the nervous system to the endocrine system via the pituitary gland. The most important thing to know is that  Froehlich syndrome is not a condition that people are born with. It is in connection with tumors that grew in the brain or their surgical treatment. Also, this affects males more often than females.

The more obvious and frequently encountered characteristics include delayed onset of puberty, short stature, small testes, and obesity.

Bardet-Biedl Syndrome

This syndrome is a genetic condition that impacts multiple body systems. It is classically defined by six features. These features are obesity in the torso, intellectual impairment, polydactyly, retinal degeneration, kidney issues, and genital dysfunction.

It affects males and females in equal numbers.  Signs usually start to appear in mid-childhood with the hardening of arteries and eye damage.  The estimate of people who possibly have it is 1 in 100,000. At least, in the non-related populations of Northern Europe and America.

Why Study Rare Obesity-Related Diseases for Weight Loss Surgery?

The two conditions are only a small fraction of monogenic obesity. However, this poses a question. If they are so rare, what is the point of studying it? Outside of ethical obligation for treatment, it seems far fetched for weight loss surgeons to study rare obesity.

But that sort of thinking inhibits progress. Even if common obesity is not the same as rare conditions, that doesn’t mean that they are unrelated to one another.  While average obesity is a combination of genetic, behavioral, and environmental factors, there is still the presence of genetics.  If we can find how genes work in all forms of obesity, we might better understand how to treat it.

Dr. Liam R. Brunham, an assistant professor of medicine at the University of British Columbia, said ” There is a huge amount regarding the genetics of obesity that remains to be discovered. Discovering the genetic basis of the remaining obesity syndromes will yield huge advances in our understanding of obesity. This could lead to new opportunities for treatment and prevention.”

Really, isn’t that and the health of everyone involved important?

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