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Do our genes make us fat?

As a boy, generously proportioned Gerry Brownlee stuck out in his family like a goose among ducks. From a young age, the future Cabinet minister was a big boy in a family of thin people, according to uncle Owen Brownlee, prompting worried visits to the doctor with his parents. Despite all the Brownlee children eating at the same dinner table, Gerry mysteriously piled on the pounds faster than his skinny siblings. Whatever was at work, it wasn’t simply his environment. Cases like these have fuelled interest in the role of genes in loading the dice towards obesity. Groundbreaking research from the Dunedin longitudinal study released this week has quantified just how powerful genes can be in producing hefty adults.