• Is being overweight genetic?

    Is being overweight genetic?

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    Are you destined to be fat if your parents are fat? What role play genes in obesity and overweight? Can you blame it on nature, your parents or yourself for being overweight? Can you change something about it?

    According to the World Health Organization, the escalating international epidemic of obesity is now the most significant contributor to ill health. More than 30% of US adults are obese, i.e. body mass index (BMI) >30 kg/m2, and it is feared that one in three children born in the early 21st century will develop diabetes with a consequent reduction in lifetime expectancy.

    Genes play without question a role in obesity, but the vast majority of cases can’t be blamed on genetic factors. Researchers at Uppsala University in Sweden conducted a study about the links between genes and obesity. The study included more than 260,000 people and the aim was to identify new genes that increase the risk of obesity, but also to compare genetic factors that cause extreme obesity with those that are linked to the rest of the BMI range.

    The researchers studied gene variants, or positions in the genetic code that differ between individuals. They clarified that the extremely obese have a greater number of gene variants that apparently may increase the risk of obesity, but they do not have completely different genes from those associated with other weight ranges.

    By examining the relationship between different body measurements and 2.8 million gene variants in 168,267 study participants the researchers were able to identify the loci linked to obesity. Then they focused on the 273 gene variants with the strongest links to various body measurements in another 109,703 people. This way, they were able to confirm the gene loci already known to be associated with various body measurements and to identify four previously unknown gene loci linked to height as well as the seven newly linked to overweight and obesity.

    Another study from London found that FTO, a specific form of a gene that had previously been linked to obesity, can increase human cravings for high-fat foods. A variation of the FTO gene affects one in six of the population, who are 70% more likely to become obese. The study found that people with the obesity-risk FTO variant have higher levels of the “hunger hormone” – ghrelin in their blood.

    The UCL metabolism & Experimental Therapeutics, Dr Rachel Batterham explains:

    Individuals with two copies of the obesity-risk FTO variant are biologically programmed to eat more. Not only do these people have higher ghrelin levels and therefore feel hungrier, their brains respond differently to ghrelin and to pictures of food – it’s a double hit.

    The experts say that genetic factors are to blame only for about 5% of all cases. The availability of abundant, energy-rich processed foods and the environmental factors play an important role in the obesity epidemic in westernized countries during the past 70 years. Almost everyone who is overweight or obese can lose weight by changing their eating habits and getting regular exercise.

    When you lose weight, the number of fat cells in your body remains the same. What changes is their size – they get smaller. Which means, that a healthy weight has to be maintained via a balanced diet and active way of life (regular exercises, sport, walking etc.) Depending on your weight, age, height and sex your body needs different amount of calories to maintain your current weight. You can use our BMR Calculator to calculate how many calories you need to take per day, to maintain your current weight. If you take more than this, you’ll gain weight and if you take less – you will lose weight – simple like this!

    It matters also from where these calories are coming in and how easy it is for your body to process them or store them. Have also in mind, that as you lose weight, the body’s energy requirements decrease.

    Genes can’t make us overweight alone

    Our genes can predispose us to overweight and obesity, but we are still making a conscious choice what and how much to eat. There are many factors that play important role in our weight. Genes can’t make us overweight alone. Eating habits, that we develop in our childhood play a very important role in determining our weight as adults. They reflect on our motivation to lose weight later in our life, and on our perception about food. From what is a normal portion size to understanding how important are the choices, that we make in our diet and how they reflect on us.

    What is our motivation to deal with challenges and to overcome obstacles is determined from our past, our family and friends. Are we used to win or lose? Who we are in the eyes of the people around us? What do they think about us and how much we pay attention to their opinion and agree with it? Different situations in our lives are leading to our choices – about food, about job, about everything. But each decision, that we make is still taken by us – so the change must also start with us.

    To change the perception of others about you, you must first start changing your own perception about yourself. Who are you if you are not overweight or obese? Become that person!
    The entire universe will help you if you want help and ask for it. If you don’t want help, no one will be ever able to help you.

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