Is Obesity Genetic?

There’s no doubt that genes play a role in obesity, but at the same time, obesity is not solely genetic. Genes influence your tendency to gain weight, but here’s an interesting fact: Diet and exercise can often counteract your genes.

The team at Bay Surgical Weight Loss stays up to date with the rapidly evolving research in obesity and genetics, so they can help guide your weight loss efforts following bariatric surgery.

Genes influence your tendency toward obesity

It’s no secret that each person gains and carries weight differently. Some can eat voraciously and never put on a pound, while others take a few bites and gain two pounds, or at least that’s how it seems.

The evidence we have today shows that these individual tendencies toward obesity have a genetic basis. Family and twin studies suggest that 40-70% of obesity variations between individuals are due to genetic factors, but in most cases, you can’t blame a single gene.

Obesity is affected by numerous genes. Genome-wide studies so far have identified 30 possible genes on 12 different chromosomes that are associated with your weight. Each gene can go through its own changes that influence your predisposition toward obesity in its own way.

For example, if you carry one gene variant, called fat mass and obesity-associated (FTO), your chances of obesity are 20-30% higher compared to someone who doesn’t carry the FTO variant. However, FTO accounts for only a small portion of genes that can increase your susceptibility to obesity.

Scientists identified another gene variation that makes fat cells take in glucose much faster than normal. Although it certainly has a role in weight gain, they’re still working to determine its exact association with obesity.

The bottom line is that gene variants increase your risk of obesity, but they do not mean you will become obese. There are other factors involved, and lifestyle can influence whether these genes become active.

In rare cases, genes directly cause obesity

Considering the complex world of genetics, you probably won’t be surprised to learn that there’s an exception to blaming a single gene. In very rare cases, obesity is solely caused by a genetic variation, regardless of diet, exercise, and other physical or environmental influences on your weight.

This type of obesity, called monogenic obesity, occurs when certain genes involved in appetite control, energy balance, and food intake become mutated and cause severe obesity.

Diet and exercise interact with your genes

You already know that restricting calories and engaging in regular exercise are the keys to maintaining a healthy body weight for the long run. Here’s another important angle on diet and exercise: The foods you eat and your activity level can help resist the pull of your genetic tendencies.

FTO variation and exercise

If you carry the FTO gene, you have a higher risk of obesity. But if you have the gene and stay physically active, your risk of becoming obese drops by 30% compared to inactive adults who carry the same gene.

Nutrient interactions

When you carry a variation of a gene called APOA2, the gene responds to saturated fats by boosting fat storage. In other words, if you carry that gene mutation, you’re more likely to become overweight from eating saturated fats than a friend who doesn’t have the gene and eats the same diet.

Fried foods and sugar-sweetened beverages are also associated with a stronger tendency toward overweight and obesity in people with obesity-susceptible genes, or gene variants known to respond to dietary and nutritional factors with weight gain.

Although it may not seem fair that you have to adjust your diet just because you carry some genetic traits that aren’t found in everyone, it’s encouraging to know that if you have certain genes, taking steps like reducing saturated fats and added sugars can stop those genes from affecting your weight.

Here at Bay Surgical Weight Loss, we factor all of these influences into your weight management plan so that we can help you successfully reach and maintain a healthy weight. To learn more, call the office or book an appointment online.

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