Physical Activity Outweighs Obesity Genes

When it comes to weight, new research shows your genes do not determine your fate, they can be overcome. According to new research, the genetic predisposition to obesity due to a gene called FTO can be substantially reduced by living a physically active lifestyle.

The research, published in this week’s version of PLoS Medicine, found that in general, carrying a copy of the FTO gene increases the risk of becoming obese. However, the effect of the gene on obesity was 27 percent less pronounced in individuals who were physically active compared with those who were inactive.

“Our findings are highly relevant to public health. They emphasize that physical activity is an effective way of controlling body weight, particularly in individuals with a genetic predisposition towards obesity,” the authors were quoted as saying.

Ruth Loos from the Medical Research Council Epidemiology Unit in Cambridge, UK led the international collaboration, inviting all researchers who had reported on the FTO gene in the past to participate.

The finding challenges the widely-held view that obesity ‘is in my genes’ and not amendable by lifestyle changes. The study shows that even those genetically predisposed can reduce their risk of becoming obese by being physically active.

Dr. J. Leenert Veerman from the School of Population Health at the University of Queensland in Australia wrote a perspective on the study stating, “testing for genetic traits that are associated with obesity makes no difference in the advice to overweight persons: increased physical activity and a healthy diet are indicated regardless of the genes.”

“A focus on individual genetic traits is a mere distraction and reinforces the popular view of obesity as a problem that individuals have to deal with, rather than one that require societal action,” Veerman continued.

The researchers believe the findings will bring them a step closer to more personalized healthcare by identifying people who will benefit most from targeted treatment.

SOURCE: PLoS Medicine, published online November 1, 2011

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