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The role of genes and environment in metabolic syndrome

Metabolic syndrome is a cluster of health conditions that occur together, including excess body fat around the waist, high blood pressure, abnormal cholesterol or triglyceride levels and elevated blood sugar.
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​Having just one of these conditions doesn’t mean that you have metabolic syndrome, but having more than one elevates your risk of heart disease, stroke, diabetes and even cancer. 

Metabolic syndrome affects one in five Canadians and research has shown that it is closely related to a sedentary lifestyle, being overweight and having a condition called insulin resistance. Less is known about the role of genetics, the environment and the interaction between the two.

Thanks to a $1.9 million grant from the Canadian Institutes of Health Research, a pan-Canadian research team will begin investigating this question, particularly how things like pollution and the built environment influence metabolic syndrome. The researchers will examine how these environmental factors influence changes in gene regulation and expression and if those changes influence the development of metabolic syndrome. 

The research team will be led by Dr. Philip Awadalla at the Ontario Institute of Cancer Research and includes Dr. John Spinelli, Acting Vice-President of Population Oncology at the BC Cancer Agency and Dr. Trevor Dummer from the University of British Columbia.  

"Where we live, work, and play can have a huge impact on the way our DNA code regulates the expression of our genes," says Dr. Spinelli.  "From this study, we will gain a better understanding of how our genes and these DNA changes affect our risk of metabolic syndrome." 

Using data from over 300,000 adults from the Canadian Partnership for Tomorrow Project, this cross-disciplinary research will unit experts in epidemiology, health geography, air pollution science, genetics, endocrinology and more to answer this pressing public health question. Not only will it provide insight into ways to prevent and treat metabolic syndrome it will help researchers better understand metabolic syndrome’s role in related chronic diseases such as cancer.

BC Cancer Agency; Awards & Grants; Population oncology
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