Cold climate tolerance linked to metabolic syndrome
Researchers believe there is a link between humans' adaptation to cold climates and metabolic syndrome - a set of conditions including obesity, high cholesterol, heart disease and diabetes.
According to scientists, a number of genetic variations have helped humans to survive in colder climates and people in cooler parts of the world tend to have a higher body mass index than those in warmer areas.
Now, researchers at the University of Chicago have found a link between climate and certain genetic variations that are thought to influence metabolic syndrome.
Anna Di Rienzo, professor of human genetics at the University of Chicago, explained: "As some populations migrated out of Africa to much cooler climates, there would have been pressure to adapt to their new settings by boosting the processes that produce and retain heat.
"Thousands of years later, in an era that combines widespread central heating with an overabundant food supply, those genetic alterations have taken on a different sort of significance. They alter our susceptibility to a whole new set of diseases, such as obesity, coronary artery disease and type-2 diabetes."
The findings are published in the journal Plos Genetics and suggest that the same biological processes that were involved in enabling humans to tolerate colder climates may play an important role in common metabolic disorders such as obesity.