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Lab Rats Pack a Paunch in Obesity Study

Sydney (dpa) - Scientists in England have bred rats with paunches to help them find out why big tummies in middle-eaged men are a leading indicator of heart disease, diabetes, hypertension and strokes, an international conference was told Wednesday.

      The rats have been dubbed SLOBs - an acronym of Severe Late On-set oBesity - and are thought to be the first laboratory animals bred to display a middle-age spread.

      Professor Iain Robinson, from London''s National Institute for Medical Research, said the SLOB strain was identified by chance when in middle-age a genetically manipulated rat put on weight around the stomach but nowhere else.

      "We were able to breed from him and establish a line of these animals, and all the males showed this trait but none of the females did until they got old," Professor Robinson told Australia''s AAP news agency.

      "We have stumbled on the fact that there is a genetic component to it. But, more importantly, it may give us a clue to why the fat accumulates in that place and why there is a difference between males and females."

      The current hypothesis is that ovaries guard against abdominal obesity in women because in laboratory experiments rats that had their ovaries removed grew fat around the middle.

      Robinson said his research team had not yet proved that there was a "beer gut gene" but it was likely that it would be found to be one of several genes influencing obesity.

Copyright 2000 dpa Deutsche Press-Agentur GmbH




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