Cohen Syndrome and Weight Gain: What the Association Might Imply about the Cause of Obesity

Cohen syndrome is a genetic disorder associated with problems on the eighth chromosome. It appears to predispose for "non progressive psychomotor retardation, motor clumsiness and typical facial features," as well as for a "tendency to truncular obesity."[1]

Obesity is a common side effect of this genetic disorder, as the authors of this paper tell us:

[Cohen Syndrome] is a rare genetic disorder caused by autosomal recessive inheritance and characterized by... [features such as] mental retardation... narrow and high arched palate... poor dentition... and truncal obesity."

How could a genetic disorder predispose people to gain weight in the abdomen? And how might this observation relate to the general debate over what constitutes a healthy diet?

As we've discussed, two fundamental hypotheses compete to explain what drives overweight and obesity.

The prevailing Caloric Balance Hypothesis -- the notion that "calories matter" -- mandates that people with this disorder can only gain weight by eating too much or not exercising enough.

The alternative Lipophilia Hypothesis -- the notion that the fat tissue "works for itself" -- tells us the genetic disorder likely deranges the metabolism of the fat tissue itself.

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1. Li Meng, MD MPH, Joseph J. Quinlan, MD, and Erin Sullivan, MD. The Anesthetic Management of a Patient with Cohen Syndrome Anesth Analg 2004;99:697-698 © 2004 International Anesthesia Research Society.

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