Obesity Caused by Genetics Can Be Overcome

Obesity caused by genetic factors can be overcome, according to a new study, which indicates physical activity during adolescence is the key.

For those who are genetically predisposed to obesity there is good news: overcoming genetic obesity may not be a lost cause. A new study shows that teens who are physically active may be able to trump their DNA.

In an effort to gain a better understanding of obesity stemming from genetic factors, scientists at Sweden’s Karolinska Institute analyzed data from 752 adolescents who took part in the Healthy Lifestyles in Europe by Nutrition in Adolescence Cross-Sectional Study.

They examined whether the participant had genes related to obesity, called FTO, which have been linked to a higher body mass index (BMI). Researchers found that 37 percent of teens had no FTO mutations, 47 percent had one copy, and 16 percent had two copies. Each copy of a mutation in this gene has been tied to an average weight increase of 3.3 pounds.

But, even for those who are predisposed to obesity due to genetic factors, regular exercise can be critical to keeping the weight at bay, scientists say. The study found that teenagers with copies of the obesity gene who exercised at least an hour a day had BMIs only .17 points higher, while those with the gene who did not get regular physical activity had a BMI .65 points higher than participants who were not genetically predisposed to obesity.

This study contradicts a 2009 report published in the Journal of Clinical Endocrinology and Metabolism, which claimed that exercise had no beneficial improvement on a teen’s weight if he or she is born with genetic obesity.

The recent findings are good news for many Americans, since about 40 percent are believed to carry at least one copy of the obesity gene, which also has ties to increased risk of Type 2 diabetes. However, researchers note that regular exercise offers countless health benefits, and they urge teens to engage in a more active lifestyle, regardless of whether the propensity for obesity is part of their genetic makeup.

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