A new study has outlined the role played by the mutation of a single gene in causing uncontrolled obesity among patients.
Researchers at the Georgetown University Medical Center have conducted studies using mice showing that irregularities in the brain-derived neurotrophic factor gene can inhibit the ability of neurones to effectively pass leptin and insulin chemical signals through the brain.
These hormones play a vital role in helping the body to recognise that it no longer requires food, meaning that the failure of these signals can lead to compulsive overeating and obesity.
Scientists believe that this discovery could highlight a new area of focus in the development of new obesity treatments.
Dr Baoji Xu, an associate professor of pharmacology and physiology at Georgetown University, said: "We have opened the door to both new avenues in basic research and clinical therapies, which is very exciting."
Obesity is thought to cost the NHS around 4.2 billion pounds a year, a total that is forecast to more than double by 2050 if current health trends persist.