LONDON -- In the future, people may be able to take a pill to control their obesity. That is, if recent research on the so-called obesity gene leads where German scientists say it could.

The FTO gene has long been associated with obesity. Ulrich Ruther and his colleagues at the University of Dusseldorf in Germany are studying the gene in mice. On Sunday, they reported that mice without the FTO gene were able to burn more calories, thus remaining thinner with less fat tissue than mice with the FTO gene — even though the mice without the gene ate more and exercised less.

Previous studies showed that people who have two copies of the FTO gene have a 70 percent higher risk of being obese than those with one or no copies of the gene. They also typically weigh about 7 pounds more on average than the other groups.

Ruther says that his study could prove that the lack of an FTO gene helps speed humans’ metabolism, helping them burn calories faster. The end result could eventually be a drug that could help control obesity, he says, although that possibility could be many years away.