The truth about the FAT GENE
As the obesity epidemic reaches critical levels, has a new study found the secret to shedding pounds?
Obesity is becoming a British health crisis – fact! It’s getting so bad, we’ve been dubbed the ‘fat man of Europe’, topping the continent’s fat league (or should we say, fat woman, as obesity levels are higher among women than men?). It’s not a contest anyone wants to win – extreme weight gain can increase chances of type 2 diabetes, heart disease and cancer. Statistics reveal a staggering 61.4%* of the UK population are now obese or overweight. So what’s causing this rise and is there a genetic connection?
What factors increase our obesity risk?
There are nearly 100 genes connected to excess weight and obesity, including the FTO gene, which controls whether we burn or store calories. Scientists from the Peninsula Medical School in Exeter and the University of Oxford discovered that carrying one of these genes increases our obesity risk by 30%, rising to 70% if we carry two. However, while genes can play an important role in how we break down calories and store fat, we can’t just blame our DNA for stopping us from slimming. Dr Preethi Daniel, Clinical Director at London Doctors Clinic (londondoctorsclinic.co.uk), explains, ‘Simply possessing a gene or group of genes doesn’t mean you’re going to eat a lot, be “big-boned”, or store every ounce of fat you’ve ever ingested.’ She continues, ‘Food scarcity for our hunter-gather ancestors meant our genes evolved to make us eat more.’ But it’s not an excuse when it comes to shedding the pounds, according to a study conducted at California’s Stanford University. It suggests that despite previous theories about fat genes preventing weight loss, it may be our unhealthy diets, not our genetics, that are primarily responsible. Originally researchers set out to determine whether genetic variations make it easier for some people to lose weight over others. Their results were surprising. Although they identified links between genes and the way our bodies deal with carbs and fat, the weight loss across the 609 overweight adults taking part in the study averaged around 5-6kg, regardless of their DNA, insulin levels or the type of diet they followed. What seemed to make the biggest difference was healthy eating.