As obesity rates rise throughout the west, researchers are struggling to find the reason behind the change and discover how it can be curbed. A recent meta-analysis of 200,000 people have discovered that a fifth of variation in BMI is due to genetics.
The study showed that predisposition to obesity and a higher body mass index is not down to a single gene or genetic change, but over 90 genes that all have a small effect. Appetite and feeding pathways play a significant role in maintaining an individual’s weight – much more of a role than metabolism.
There is also a significant overlap between these loci, and the genomes associated with metabolic diseases such as insulin resistance, cholesterol levels and fasting glucose levels.
Different fat deposits pose different risks to health, which is why further research needs to be conducted to find out which genes influence where fat is deposited. This discovery would help doctors understand the biology that leads to diabetes, metabolic syndrome, and heart disease.
The Good News
While popular media has jumped to the conclusion that genetic markers mean that obesity is inevitable in certain individuals, it certainly isn’t a definite conclusion. These genetic differences simply mean that it is more difficult for people with these genetic differences to maintain a healthy weight and healthy eating habits. However, that does not mean that it is impossible to lose weight or avoid putting it on in the first place. In fact, this research shows that metabolism doesn’t play as large a part as expected, so the major barriers are in maintaining a healthy diet and exercise rather than burning fat.