Don't Blame 'Obesity Gene' for Failure to Lose Weight

Study finds the gene does not prevent carriers from losing weight
By Evann Gastaldo,  Newser Staff
Posted Sep 21, 2016 12:24 PM CDT
Don't Blame 'Obesity Gene' for Failure to Lose Weight
Diet and exercise can trump your genes, say researchers.   (AP)

Carriers of a specific form of the FTO gene, known as the "obesity gene," are 70% more likely to be obese, tend to have a bigger appetite, and weigh an average of 6.6 pounds more than non-carriers. But, a new study finds, carrying the gene does not cause a person to be unable to lose weight. "You can no longer blame your genes," says the lead researcher in a press release. "Our study shows that improving your diet and being more physically active will help you lose weight, regardless of your genetic makeup." Researchers at England's Newcastle University reviewed eight randomized studies that involved 9,563 adult subjects and found that people with the obesity gene responded "just as well to weight loss interventions as everyone else," the lead researcher says. He adds, to Time, "You have to bite the bullet, and eat a bit less, or be more active [to maintain a healthy weight]."

That means that, whether you're trying to lose weight via diet, exercise, or even a drug-based regimen, you can expect to see results whether you carry the gene or not. The findings held true in both men and women, younger people and older people, and people of different ethnicities, though most people involved in the studies were white. As the researchers write in the study, published Tuesday in the BMJ, some companies offer personalized weight loss plans based on a person's DNA profile, and these findings suggest that such plans "may not pay off, at least in the short term." About 16% of the population is affected by the riskiest variant of the obesity gene, the Telegraph reports; Time notes that the gene is related to how the body burns calories for heat or turns calories into fat. (The obesity gene may have an off switch, and previous studies have already shown it can be combated with exercise.)

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