London: A team of scientists in Sweden have warned that gorging too much on fat-rich junk food may cause drastic changes to a gene that helps muscle cells burn fat. Juleen Zierath, of the Karolinska Institute in Stockholm, says that her team``s findings may help improve the scientific understanding of how type II diabetes develops in adulthood. "Somehow, the environment plays on the genes we have," says the lead researcher, adding that her study provides new clues to how this happens.She says that it may be possible that the altered cells become so engorged with unburnt fat that they become "diabetic", and stop accepting signals from the hormone insulin, which normally triggers the absorption of glucose from the bloodstream.However, proving that components in the diet can permanently alter genes is itself a breakthrough, as it provides the first evidence that the food people eat may change the function of their DNA, a process scientifically known as "epigenetics".During the study, the researchers observed that the DNA itself remained unchanged, except for a masking process called methylation that can permanently mothball a gene by capping individual chemical units or bases.
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