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Obesity: It Might Be Genetic (at Least A Little)
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Obesity: It Might Be Genetic (at Least A Little)

Obese people are not getting a free pass, nor are they being let off the hook but researchers in the UK have identified several sets of genes that may stack the deck against them. Ruth Loos, a member of the Genetic Aetiology of Obesity Program at the Institute of Metabolic Science has conducted two separate meta analysis studies that have identified two different types of gene variants that may play a major role in obesity and may be used to explain why one person in a family may become obese when no one else does.

In the first study, Loos looked at 46 gene studies that had been used to link genetic activity to BMI. In those studies, she found 18 new genetic regions that played a role in higher BMI readings than in others of the same study. Loos has said that in the study it has been proven that an increased number of this particular type of gene variants may increase the risk for obesity. Because you can get these variants from both parents, each person can have as many as 64 sets of gene variants.

The average person may have as many as 28-32 of these gene variants while a small group may either have a much higher number or a much lower one. Two percent of the population may have 38 of the gene variants while another two percent may have fewer than 21 of them.

In the second study, Loos found that 14 gene variants are related to the hip to waist ratio which may relate to how fat is distributed on the body. These genes are gender specific making men more likely to put their excess weight on their belly while the women are likely to gain weight below the waist, especially in the thighs. Half of these gene variants, according to Loos work much more emphatically on women than on men.

The gene variants from the two studies did not have any apparent overlap meaning that both types work independently of one another.

Loos concluded that these are new and largely unexplored gene variants and there is little understanding of how they work or what they might mean as of yet. She also warns that there is no way to use these genes to predict the likelihood of obesity at this time. The genes appear to work on the brain, causing the pleasure center to fire incorrectly and may leave the person more susceptible to poor food choices or to overeating.

The problem with this study, cautioned Loos, is that people might believe that they don’t have to do anything for their health and fitness because they are doomed by their genetics. There are still a number of things that can be done, says Loos, including eating right and getting some exercise. Just because you have these genes does not mean that you are going to have to be overweight or obese.


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