The Secret to Turning Off Your Fat Genes

By , SparkPeople Blogger
A lot of factors help determine a person’s body shape and size, and there’s no doubt that genetics plays a part in it.  You might notice that you tend to gain weight easily like your mother or gain first in certain areas like your father.  A number of studies have identified the "fat gene" which can increase your risk of becoming overweight or obese by an average of 12 percent.  Surprisingly, a large number of people are estimated to carry this gene- 65 percent of those of European or African descent.   But does that mean you’re destined to struggle with your weight throughout your life?  Not necessarily.  In fact, there might be some simple ways to outsmart your genes and avoid weight gain.
A new report, published in the journal PLoS Medicine, found that small amounts of physical activity can help offset the risk of weight gain from this gene (referred to as the FTO gene.)  This report re-analyzed some of the data from previous studies on the topic, with a sample size of 218,000 people.  The report categorized anyone who did moderate or vigorous physical activity for at least one hour per week as physically active.  Even though an hour a week might not be considered "active" to many, only 25 percent of those studied qualified as active.  Of those who were active, 30 percent were able to reduce the effect of the FTO gene and maintain a normal weight.
Researchers still don’t quite understand how the FTO gene works, but their theory is that it affects appetite and behavior.  "Though there are only limited functional data, it appears that the gene is highly expressed in the brain," says Dr. Lu Qi, an assistant professor in the department of nutrition at the Harvard School of Public Health and one of the dozens of scientists who agreed to re-examine his past data for this new analysis. It is especially active in "the regions that regulate the balance of energy intake and expenditure," he continues. "The loss of energy balance is the basis of development of obesity."  Since physical activity is also involved in energy expenditure, it will affect energy balance, thereby potentially negating the effects the gene has on the body. 
Although it’s no guarantee, this early research shows that minimal exercise can have an impact on your genetic predisposition to obesity.  Instead of taking the attitude that you’re destined to have weight problems no matter what you do, get up and get moving!  Taking a short walk, going for a bike ride or even playing with your kids a few times a week can have a big impact on your health and your waistline.
What do you think?

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I know I have the fat gene. Both parents had weight problems. Some of my siblings does also. I do know exercise does help me with weight lose. I also helps my blue moods if I ave them, and make me feel more energetic. Report
What I take from this article is "get up and get moving"... A good thing! Report
Great article; plan to take my grown children (very skinny) and other family members to enjoy a FREE day at our National Park. We will hike and just enjoy soaking up some Vitamin D on this beautiful sunny day!! Report
Thanks WALSHLG. I'm not a doctor, but I got the same impression from reading the article. Report
I think I have a fat gene and it has been a lifelong struggle. Sometimes I have not worked as hard to fight against it, but it is helpful to have this knowledge. Report
This just proves that every little bit counts. Time to get moving :) Report
ANY hope of getting the better of myself at my worst is most welcome. Report
I am glad there is research on weight gain. I believe both enviroment and genetics affect weight gain. But whether it is genetics or envioment it takes eating healthy and exercise to lose weight and maintain a healthy weight. And whether weight gain is due to genetics or envioment weght loss is attainable if we set our minds to it. Report
Interesting article. I have noticed in my family before I was diagnosed with Crohns Disease. My sister spent alot of time with our grandma who was crippled & now my sister doesn't like to be active. I spent more time with my grandpa who was very active & I prefer to be active instead of sitting still. Maybe is could be partlly genetics. I didn't learn some things that I didn't know previously. Report
A very interesting article! I learned a few things, don't necessarily agree with all of it, but worth a try! Report
I was struck by the whole "everything needs to be in balance, disease is a symptom of something not being in balance" thrust of the research. That is a predominantly Eastern (Asian) mindset for practicing medicine. Oh, and I see the lead researcher is Asian. I think this is a case of having a conclusion first and then looking for a way for research to back up your conclusion. Report
when I was a kid we moved all the time walking, riding bikes, swimming we never stopped (before computers,game boys not even TV) and I still had a weight problem and there was not a fast food place on every corner we ate all our meals at home with fresh products not pre-package so I do not know the answer but I wish I could find one. Report
All of us here on SP know that preventing weight gain is not that easy. If it were, we wouldn't be here. When I was a kid I ran up and down five flights of stairs and played outside every day. I was still a fat kid, and no, it wasn't junk food since we didn't have any in the house and we didn't have fast food either. These days I'm still active for WAY more than one hour a week but guess what - I'm continuing to struggle with my weight. Back to the drawing board! Report
I agree with WALSHLG and HALLERS, that this isn't much of a study. What you put in your mouth is really 80% of staying at a normal BMI. In Gary Taubes' "WHY WE GET FAT AND WHAT TO DO ABOUT IT" he explains how exercise increases appetite (just work all day out in the field and see), but our diet today is full of sugars/starches that past generations didn't eat. (sugar-filled drinks, fast food, refined flour, etc.) Report
This sounds like junk science to me. It's still like, duh, move more, eat fewer calories. We all already know that some people seem to have an easier time gaining weight and others have an easier time losing it. So some of us have to work harder at it than others. To say it is turning off the fat gene is just another way of saying the same thing. Move more, consume fewer calories. Sigh. NO MAGIC BULLETS! Report
My older sister and I were raised with the same foods. I was hyper and never seemed to gain weight when I was young. I could eat anything up until I was 30 and put on Prenidsone. My sister always seemed (to her anyway) fat, she wasn't when she was younger but she did have more fat than either I or our other sister. Why? Don't really know, maybe genes? Report
I've participated in more exercise than the article recommends my whole life and it hasn't kept me at a normal weight. It's all about the food intake and what is going on in each individual body. Doubling down on the calories and doubling up on the exercise is the only way my body gives it up.

Exercise makes me feel great and I do what I enjoy...that is my incentive to getting it done. Report
Sorry but as a scientist and doctor, it really makes me mad to see such hyperbolic nonsense applied to interpretation of preliminary studies. Your conclusions can not be made from this data.instead the data shows that 1) most people with this gene, WHICH MAY OUR MAY NOT be a factor in weight gain are sedentary. 2) Of the minority that were active, most were not able to maintain an ideal weight inspite of being active. This strengthens the argument that this gene is important for weight gain. Don't get me wrong, I'm all for being active since its clear that makes you healthier. But your misinterpretation of this data will end up DISCOURAGING people since it clearly shows that for most of us, exercise is not sufficient to maintain an ideal weight. Your read implies the opposite! Report
I don't necessarily agree genes play a role in obesity. Perhaps they play a role in where your body deposits leftover fat the most, but I don't believe it controls whether you gain a bunch of weight or not. Looking at our ancestors, have we heard of a single ancestor of ours that was overweight? It was survival of the fittest for them. Obesity just recently became a problem in the 1900s, not with our great-great-great-grandparents, who ate REAL food that didn't contain a bunch of refined sugar, chemicals, flour, and whatnot. Eat REAL food that isn't processed or refined, and you'll get the full benefit of the food. Pair that with exercise, and then your genes will be tip-top and healthy, and your immune system will be able to tackle on anything that invades your system. Report
I just took zoologythis last semester and kind of disagree with this article.I mean if you exercise it might help keep a little weight off but physical work isn't what really changes your genes its what you eat. Depending on what you eat and its chemical reaction with your. Body determines what it does and how it affects your genes. Every day new genes get built but if we don't eat what body needs the genes mutate or certain ones can be over produced or under produce which then can affect your body. Im not saying exercise can't keep fat off it can but it really doesn't have much to do with shuting off your genes as from what I learned. Report
I wish people would quit judging each other by their looks. No one knows how hard that overweight person is working out or how well they eat. They just asume they are lazy and overeat. I ran a half marathon and run 6 days a week, my long runs taking 3 hours, I eat what SparkPeople recommend, and I am nowhere near my ideal BMI. My doctor said I am doing everything right. I have sustained this going on four years. My bloodwork shows I am healthy. So stop and realize that everyone is different genetically and stop assuming just because someone is not "model" thin, it doesn't mean they are not healthy. Report
Weight loss is a day to day decision and a life style change.........I like many others have physical, medical, and behavioral issues that must be overcome with each individual one step at a time. We will gain or lose weight at different rates and at different times, but that does not give anyone the right to judge others in any situation. We do not know others and their day to day struggles, so, please have compassion, love, & mercy!! Report
Genes have a great deal to do with our weight. When one's hormones are out of whack and it takes YEARS for the drs to figure it out, the consequences of taking the wrong hormones can greatly impact the ability to lose weight. Ladies, get your hormone levels checked before taking any kind of birth control pill. BHT or biodentical hormone therapy has saved me and is finally allowing me to get a handle on my weight. Too much testosterone is one of the main symptoms of PCOS and makes it extremely difficult to lose/maintain weight loss let alone get pregnant.
Blessings on your health! Report
I have helped so many friends lose weight...I was never big until about 10 years ago...I lost both my parents within 11 became a comfort for me. I know the only way to lose weight is to cut back and become more active...I wish I could follow my own advice!!! Report
I think weight is something which is entirely within our control, and clinging to excuses is just abdicating responsibility.

There are things which make weight loss and maintenance easier or harder, but not which stop it completely. For instance, thyroid issues mean weight loss may be much slower and take a different kind of eating to get there. They don't make it impossible. Or like for me, taking steroids for medical conditions make appetite regulation harder, but do not make me eat more in themselves. Or lack of mobility makes exercise harder, but doesn't make you eat more. We all have our personal struggles.

Genetics for weight are just about predisposition, not inevitability.

I also question how much of it truly is genetics and how much of it is learnt behaviour. Obesity does often run in families but is this because they share genes or because each new generation is taught the habits of the previous one?

Personally a lot of my weight loss battle is about re-examining the habits I learnt as a child and a teen and trying to replace them with better ones! Report
I think it's true that even if you gain weight easily, you can help turn it around a little with more physical activity. Report
Get up and GO! Report
Thanks for sharing this info. It is a great motivator to get up and move. Report
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