"Looking at participants in the Framingham Heart Study, we found that the correlation between the best known obesity-associated gene variant and body mass index increased significantly as the year of birth of participants increased," said James Niels Rosenquist, of the Massachusetts General Hospital (MGH) Department of Psychiatry, lead author of the report.
"These results - to our knowledge the first of their kind - suggest that this and perhaps other correlations between gene variants and physical traits may vary significantly depending on when individuals were born, even for those born into the same families," said Rosenquist.

While this study was not able to identify the environmental differences that combine with FTO variant to increase the risk of obesity, the authors noted that post-World War II factors such as increased reliance on technology rather than physical labour and the availability of high-calorie processed foods are likely contributors.
"We know that environment plays a huge role in the expression of genes, and the fact that our effect can be seen even among siblings born during different years implies that global environmental factors such as trends in food products and workplace activity, not just those found within families, may impact genetic traits," said Rosenquist. The study was published in the journal PNAS.

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