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Most people think a lack of exercise and poor diet are the two main causes of obesity, but researchers in British Columbia may have just proved them wrong.

A group of scientists at the University of British Columbia have identified a gene that, when silenced, led to a 50 per cent reduction in unhealthy white fat in lab mice. White fat, by the way, is the same fat that’s associated with obesity, heart disease and diabetes.

In their experiment, all mice were fed the same amount of food. But the ones bred to have higher levels of the obesity gene were noticeably plumper, with each one having an average of 22 per cent more white fat when fed a high calorie diet.

“It was such a pronounced, marked observation that it begged the question why and it launched a whole series of studies,” UBC researcher Gareth Lim says in the video above.

Those studies are still ongoing, so not much is known about the obesity gene just yet. What is known, however, is that the gene is found in every cell in the human body and encodes a protein called 13-3-3zeta. Once scientists have a better grasp on how it contributes to obesity, the next step will likely be to develop a drug that can silence it in humans as well.

Unfortunately though, those magic pills are still a few years away.