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Genetic Tendency to Obesity Not the Last Word

Genetic Tendency to Obesity Not the Last WordClassic weight control doctrine follows the logic that if you consume more calories per day than what your body uses, you will gain weight.

A new study suggest that for some people, the ability to resist the temptation of extra calories is especially challenging as individuals may have “obesity genes” that increase the likelihood of a high-calorie diet – often consisting of high fat, sugary foods.

Nevertheless, the findings suggest that it may still be possible to minimize genetic risk by changing one’s eating patterns and being vigilant about food choices, in addition to adopting other healthy lifestyle habits, like regular physical activity.

The study, published online by the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, reveals certain variations within the FTO and BDNF genes – which have been previously linked to obesity – may play a role in eating habits that can cause obesity.

“Understanding how our genes influence obesity is critical in trying to understand the current obesity epidemic, yet it’s important to remember that genetic traits alone do not mean obesity is inevitable,” said lead author Jeanne M. McCaffery, Ph.D., of The Miriam Hospital’s Weight Control and Diabetes Research Center.

“Our lifestyle choices are critical when it comes to determining how thin or heavy we are, regardless of your genetic traits,” she added. “However, uncovering genetic markers can possibly pinpoint future interventions to control obesity in those who are genetically predisposed.”

Researchers have known that individuals who carry a variant of the fast mass and obesity-associated gene FTO and BDNF (or brain-derived neurotrophic factor gene) are at increased risk for obesity.

Prior studies have determined that these genes are linked with overeating in children with the current study being one of the first investigations to extend the finding to adults.

Both FTO and BDNF genes influence the part of the brain that controls eating and appetite, although the mechanisms by which these gene variations influence obesity is still unknown.

In the current study, more than 2,000 participants completed a questionnaire about their eating habits over the past six months and also underwent geneotyping.

Researchers focused on nearly a dozen genes that have been previously associated with obesity. They then examined whether these genetic markers influenced the pattern or content of the participants’ diet.

Individuals who displayed variations in the FTO gene were found to be significantly associated with a greater number of meals and snacks per day, greater percentage of energy from fat and more servings of fats, oils and sweets.

The findings are largely consistent with previous research in children.

Moreover, researchers discovered individuals with BDNF variations consume more servings from the dairy and the meat, eggs, nuts and beans food groups. Individuals also consumed approximately 100 more calories per day, which McCaffery notes could have a substantial influence on one’s weight.

“We show that at least some of the genetic influence on obesity may occur through patterns of dietary intake,” she said. “The good news is that eating habits can be modified, so we may be able to reduce one’s genetic risk for obesity by changing these eating patterns.”

McCaffery says that while this research greatly expands their knowledge on how genetics may influence obesity, the data must be replicated before the findings can be translated into possible clinical measures.

Source: Miriam Hospital

Genetic man photo by shutterstock.

Genetic Tendency to Obesity Not the Last Word

Rick Nauert PhD

Rick Nauert, PhDDr. Rick Nauert has over 25 years experience in clinical, administrative and academic healthcare. He is currently an associate professor for Rocky Mountain University of Health Professionals doctoral program in health promotion and wellness. Dr. Nauert began his career as a clinical physical therapist and served as a regional manager for a publicly traded multidisciplinary rehabilitation agency for 12 years. He has masters degrees in health-fitness management and healthcare administration and a doctoral degree from The University of Texas at Austin focused on health care informatics, health administration, health education and health policy. His research efforts included the area of telehealth with a specialty in disease management.

APA Reference
Nauert PhD, R. (2018). Genetic Tendency to Obesity Not the Last Word. Psych Central. Retrieved on November 26, 2020, from
Scientifically Reviewed
Last updated: 8 Aug 2018 (Originally: 25 May 2012)
Last reviewed: By a member of our scientific advisory board on 8 Aug 2018
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