A specific type of belly fat gene could have a significant impact on whether someone develops type 2 diabetes, researchers have said.
Being overweight and having excess belly fat is known to increase the risk of type 2 diabetes, but losing weight through eating a healthy diet and making positive lifestyle changes can reduce the risk.
This new research from the University of Oxford reveals that one gene in particular, KLF14, can be a factor in the increased risk of type 2 diabetes related to belly fat.
KLF14 was shown to modify how fat is stored, and in women a slightly different version of the gene meant the fat tended to be deposited on the hips rather than the abdomen, which conveys a lower risk of type 2 diabetes. Fewer overall fat cells were observed, but the fat cells were larger and contained a greater mass of fat.
The researchers demonstrated that these cells increased the risk of type 2 diabetes and showed that not all body fat is equal with excess fat stored in some parts of the body playing a more significant role.
Co-lead author Professor Mark McCarthy, from the University of Oxford, stated: “Here, we identify a key gene involved in women in determining whether excess fat is stored around the hips (where it tends to be free of metabolic consequences) or around the waist (where it is particularly likely to increase diabetes risk).
“Being overweight is known to increase the risk of type 2 diabetes, but this study shows that not all fat is equal: where any excess fat is stored in the body has a big impact on disease risk.”
The researchers are keen to carry out more research to focus on understanding further the role of KLF14.
Co-lead study author Dr Kerrin Small from King’s College London said: “These findings provide one of the most complete understandings of a piece of genetic data – we have studied the KLF14 gene to the point that we understand not only where and how it acts in the body but also who it acts in.”
The findings have been published in the journal Nature Genetics.

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