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CU Anschutz researcher says `thrifty gene' making us fat

Genetic mutation in ancient apes may be causing soaring obesity, diabetes rates


​David Kelly - University Communications

AURORA, Colo. – A genetic mutation that occurred among prehistoric apes to survive food scarcity could be behind today’s pandemic of diabetes and obesity, according to an article by Richard J. Johnson, professor of medicine at the University of Colorado Anschutz Medical Campus.
The article, published in the October 2015 edition of Scientific American, says that a gene mutation that happened in ancient European apes, perhaps 15 million years ago, may have helped them store fat during seasonal famines that likely occurred during a period of global cooling. Now in a time of plenty, that same genetic mutation may be contributing to soaring rates of obesity and diabetes.
“These ancient apes were living primarily on fruit, which is rich in the sugar, fructose.  At that time of global cooling, fruit became progressively less available in Europe where many of these apes were living,” said Johnson, MD, a world-renowned expert on the underlying causes of obesity, kidney disease, diabetes and hypertension. “The resulting mutation caused an increase in uric acid levels.”
 
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