The same gene that may be increasing your girth may also be making you happier, according to a new report. Researchers at McMaster University in Canada discovered that the FTO gene, which is a major contributor to obesity, is associated with a decreased risk of depression. Think of it as a kind of “happy gene.”

Perhaps more significantly though, the discovery of the “obese but happy” gene helps explains what makes some people happier than others.

“The difference of eight percent is modest and it won’t make a big difference in the day-to-day care of patients,” David Meyre, an associate professor at the university’s Michael G. DeGroote School of Medicine and the paper’s senior author, said of the reduced risk. “But, we have discovered a novel molecular basis for depression.”

Eureka News:

The McMaster discovery challenges the common perception of a reciprocal link between depression and obesity: That obese people become depressed because of their appearance and social and economic discrimination; depressed individuals may lead less active lifestyles and change eating habits to cope with depression that causes them to become obese.

…In these patients, they found the previously identified obesity predisposing genetic variant in FTO was associated with an eight per cent reduction in the risk of depression. They confirmed this finding by analyzing the genetic status of patients in three additional large international studies.

Meyre said the fact the obesity gene’s same protective trend on depression was found in four different studies supports their conclusion. It is the “first evidence” that an FTO obesity gene is associated with protection against major depression, independent of its effect on body mass index, he said

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— Posted by Tracy Bloom.

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