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Obesity and Genetics


Obesity or being overweight has become a major issue of society. Obesity is more than unhealthy or unpopular, it is life threatening. Obesity increases the risk of Type 2 Diabetes, Heart Disease, Stroke, some forms of Cancer, and Joint and Arthritic Problems.


The question is why has obesity become a major issue, with nations such as United States of America and Australia being some of the fattest nations. Should we just blame McDonalds and KFC? Should we blame the TV advertising of those mouth-watering chocolates and lollies during our favourite programs? Is it that we just aren’t exercising enough?


Or could our genes contribute to the increasing waistline of the nation?


There is much research going on about the genes responsible for fat accumulation and metabolism.  And Science has shown that the tendency to gain weight and not get rid of weight is partly determined by our genes. The amount and types of food that we put into our mouths and the amount of physical activity that we engage in contribute the other part to our overweight issue.


The genes can elicit the reason as to why some people continually put weight back on after they have been on a ‘diet’. Having a genetic predisposition to poor fat metabolism can give an explanation for the tendency to gain weight.


There are a number of genes that regulate how our bodies obtain, store and release the energy from food.


For instance there is a gene known as FTO (fat mass and obesity associated gene). This gene has the highest association with obesity. This gene influences appetite and satiety (feeling of being full and satisfied after a meal), and causes people to select high energy dense foods, therefore increasing their total energy intake.


People with 2 copies of this gene are on average 3 kg heavier than those with the beneficial allele. Those who have this gene really need to make sure that they exercise as low levels of physical activity will only accentuate the body fat accumulation.


The gene LEPR (receptor for leptin) has a key role in regulating energy intake and energy expenditure. This gene is linked to increased percentage of fat mass and BMI (Body Mass Index). Leptin regulates the pro-inflammatory chemicals. These pro-inflammatory compounds can inhibit fat loss and are linked to insulin and blood sugar disorders. As with the FTO gene, LEPR influences our appetite and satiety or feeling of fullness.


So from this, we can see that it is not only our diet and lifestyle that contributes to obesity, but also our genes. This doesn’t mean that you can throw your hands in the air and say “Oh Well, My genes make me fat”. The genes give us the insight to how your body reacts to foods and lifestyle factors. The genes tell us how your body operates and then you can make informed lifestyle choices to minimise the effects of these genes on your weight.


For more information, please view our Obesity / Weight Loss page.


11 April 2012