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Are your genes making you fat?

Kathleen Blanchard's picture
Your genes could be making you fat, according to  Miriam Hospital researchers.

Researchers say it’s possible that ‘obesity genes’ lead us to overeat and choose high calorie sugary and fatty foods. One study shows there are indeed gene variations that influence unhealthy eating habits and may help explain the obesity epidemic.

Understanding obesity genes

Researchers from The Miriam Hospital’s Weight Control and Diabetes Research Center explain that understanding one’s predisposition to overeating which leads to obesity is important because it means making an extra effort to adopt healthy lifestyle choices such as boosting exercise and remaining vigilant about our eating habits.

Taking steps to change our eating habits could minimize our genetic risk for obesity.

Lead author Jeanne M. McCaffery, Ph.D., of The Miriam Hospital’s Weight Control and Diabetes Research Center explained in a press release, “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.”

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There are two gene variations that can make people prone to obesity - FTO and BDNF (or brain-derived neurotrophic factor gene), though researchers aren’t sure how the gene mutations work to make us fatter.

But McCaffery adds in a press release that lifestyle choices “…are critical when it comes to determining how thin or heavy we are, regardless of your genetic traits.” By changing our eating habits we can reduce genetic risk of obesity.

In the study that included more than 2000 participants who filled out food questionnaires and were genotyped, the researchers specifically found people with variations of the FTO gene ate more snacks, fats, oils and meals. People with BDNF gene variations consume more dairy, bean food groups, eggs and nuts and take in about 100 calories more per day.

The researchers say more studies are needed to find interventions for curbing obesity influenced by genes in adults and children.

Miriam Hospital
May 23, 2012

Image credit: Wikimedia commons

Updated 12/29/2015