The truth about the FAT GENE

As the obe­sity epi­demic reaches crit­i­cal lev­els, has a new study found the se­cret to shed­ding pounds?

Woman (UK) - - Health Report -

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 (lon­don­doc­, 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.

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