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Scientists Discover Obesity "Master Switch" Gene: And No, It Does Not Control Your Car Window

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Mon, May 16, 2011 at 10:00 AM

click to enlarge a drive-thru window view - FLICKR/JEREMY BROOKS

Yesterday Reuters reported that scientists have found a so-called "master switch" for obesity. And no, it is not the lock button on your car door window. Although given that the line of cars recently stacking up to order drive-thru at the first branches of In-N-Out to open in Texas stretched for 2 miles, that might be an easier solution. More fun with genetic engineering. (That's a joke.)

In a study published in the journal Nature Genetics, British researchers write that a gene linked to diabetes and cholesterol functions as a switch that controls other genes found in fat in the body. They've known that this gene, called called KLF14, was linked to type 2 diabetes and cholesterol levels, but until now did not know what role it played. Better still, more research into this regulating gene could help scientists better treat the myriad illnesses related to obesity, which is hitting record numbers.

According to Oxford University's Mark McCarthy, who worked on the study, "KLF14 seems to act as a master switch controlling processes that connect changes in the behavior of subcutaneous fat to disturbances in muscle and liver that contribute to diabetes and other conditions." Researchers write that KLF14 controls many genes that in turn are linked to body mass index, obesity, cholesterol, insulin and glucose levels.

And no, we're not implying that eating In-N-Out burgers will make you fat, nor even, necessarily, will a surfeit of onion rings. We love drive-thru food as much as Thomas Keller and the rest of the known world -- and that giant vat of homemade aïoli you have with your steamed farmers market artichokes will get you just as quickly. It's just a matter of how many times you choose to circle the block.

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