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How Genes Affect Weight Loss

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I read a recent article in the Times about a new study into genes and how they might affect a person’s weight.

The article addressed the MC4R gene. When this gene is faulty it encourages very young children to gain weight very quickly and become overweight and obese in the very early years of their life. AS the child gets older it can be difficult to shift this weight. The defective gene means that patients don’t have a stop button and continue to eat after they would normally be satisfied. 

This defective gene is thought to be present in about 1 in 50 people. That would be about 300,000 people in the UK. Of course, we don’t know that they would all be obese but you would have to think that a large proportion would be. 

Whether you have this defective gene or not there is very little that doctors can do to treat it. Weight loss surgery and new weight loss injections, recently launched in the UK market, remain the most effective methods of treatment for obesity.  

Weight loss surgery will usually help obese patients lose 50-80% of their excess weight depending on which procedure they have. Gastric sleeve is the most common surgical procedure in the UK now. If you use a non-surgical treatment such as a gastric balloon, you might expect to lose 15-20% of your starting weight but the weight loss is often short-term and is a poor option for the chronically obese patient for whom surgery would be better. If you elect for medical treatment, then the latest drugs, with support from a specialist weight loss practice, might enable you to lose 10-15% of your starting eight. The weight loss is lower than that with surgery but the patient benefits from avoiding surgery. 

I suspect that this latest research might only have the effect of giving people a new reason to explain their obesity, whether it has anything to do with MC4R, or not. The important message remains, if you are clinically obese you are shortening your life expectancy and putting yourself at increased risk of ill health. Seek treatment to help with this. 

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