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Scientists discover molecular differences in two obesity subtypes

INDIANAPOLIS (WISH) – More than 600 million people across the world are obese. This is a number that’s tripled from just a few decades ago.

Up until now, obesity has long been considered a single disease. According to a new study published in the journal Nature Metabolism, scientists at the Van Andel Institute in Michigan have identified two different obesity subtypes with major physiological and molecular differences. 

The first type are people who have greater fat mass. The second are people with greater fat mass and lean muscle mass. Scientists believe this has to do with an area of science known as epigenetics, or how behaviors and environment can cause changes that affect the way a person’s genes work.

“This unexplained variation is difficult to study, but the payoff of a deeper understanding is immense,” lead study author, Dr. Andrew Pospisilik, said in a news release. “Epigenetics can act like a light switch that flips genes ‘on’ or ‘off,’ which can promote health or when things go wrong, disease.”

He says a better understanding of epigenetics could lead to improved treatments for obesity.