Posted on 03 Apr 2019 Views 4370 Comments 23
With headlines estimating that two-thirds of the population is ‘dieting’ at any one time, many people are searching for the solution that works for them. Why, however do some people tend to find it so much harder to lose weight than others? This article considers the role that genetics may have in predisposing to obesity.
Genetics is the study of our genes. Taking you back to science lessons at school, a gene is a part of the biological code that you are built from. Half our genes come from our mother and half from our father. Variations can happen in our genes – these are tiny changes to the genetic code that may affect things like the severity of illness we experience or the way the body responds to treatments.
Research over the last decade or so has identified over 100 genes or gene groups linked to obesity. These can affect things like our eating habits, how easily we store fat, our metabolism and how our appetite is regulated.
One of these genes, called FTO (which stands for ‘fat mass and obesity related protein’) was originally discovered in 2007 and is involved in appetite regulation. This gene has the largest effect on body mass index (BMI) than any other known gene. All of us have the FTO gene, but some of us will have inherited different forms with one or two small changes. Studies suggest that one small change in this gene (called a single variant) means you are 25% more likely to be obese. People with two small changes in this gene (called a double variant) are 50% more likely to be obese.
If you did want to find out your genetic risk status, there are various companies that offer genetic testing to include FTO variants. We do not recommend a particular company. Different tests have different sensitivity and specificity, so it’s always best to do your research when looking into this.
Some research suggests that people with the double risk FTO variant may choose to eat foods higher in fat and sugar, rather than healthier foods. The genetic variations are linked to changes in the brain, making it slightly less sensitive to appetite hormones released from gut and fat cells, affecting how hungry we feel. Put simply, if you have FTO risk variants, you may feel hungrier - the brain thinks that you have less fat in your body than you actually do, and that you ate slightly less than you actually did. These factors can result in small increases in food intake, and hence weight over time.
During a TV experiment for BBC Horizon in 2016, they showed they tested a group of dieters to see if they had the double variant and then observed them eating a meal. They found that if people actually knew they had the double variant, they were more likely to avoid the higher calorie foods. So, by simply knowing their genetic risk factors may be enough to encourage change.
Whats your thoughts on genetic testing, do you think this could be the solution to our ever growing obesity problem? Leave your comments below to be in with a chance to win a Slim & Save Variety Bar Pack worth £36.99 Winning comment will be chosen on Tuesday 9th April at 4 pm!.
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