An international team of researchers claims to have found the gene variant that controls and predicts binge eating and obesity in teenagers. The researchers hope the findings will help design mechanisms to control binge eating and associated weight gain in youth.

The research was conducted by a team of researchers from University College London, the University of Queensland in Australia and the University of Bristol in England. During the study, the researchers looked at the data for more than 6,000 children in the UK, ages 14 through 16.

The team found that those with a particular variation in the FTO (rs1558902) were 20 percent more likely to binge-eat. The genetic variation is already known to be linked to the risk of developing obesity due to a higher body mass index. The researchers wanted to see if the same genetic variation is able to help predict binge eating.

The study – which has been published in the journal Obesity – also found that girls were 30 percent more likely to binge-eat if the genetic variation was present in them.

“Eventually this finding could allow us to develop more targeted treatment for binge eating, and enable much earlier intervention so young people don’t develop obesity,” said lead researcher Dr. Nadia Micali, in a statement.

Binge eating refers to the habit of consuming prodigious amounts of food and having a feeling of losing control over how much to eat. It is estimated that nearly 10 percent of the teenagers and adult binge-eat. It is one of the primary causes of obesity.

The National Health Service estimates that obesity levels in the UK have nearly tripled in the last three decades and more than half the national population will fall under the obese category.