How do my genes influence my ability to lose weight?

How much do my genes affect my ability to lose weight?

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We all know those people – the ones who seem to never put on weight no matter what their diet consists of. A study conducted in 2019 found that genes and weight loss go hand-in-hand, in-fact, they’re one of the most important factors.

A study by the University of Cambridge compared the DNA of 1,471 thin volunteers, 1,456 severely obese people, and a normal-weight control group of 10,433. They found that thin people have genetics on their side.

“In this study, we recruited a first of its kind cohort of 1,471 clinically ascertained thin and healthy individuals and contrasted the genetic architecture of the trait with that of severe early-onset obesity. We show that thinness, like obesity, is a heritable trait with a polygenic component.”

How was the study conducted?

Exercise will inevitably have a major impact on a participants current BMI, therefore to get an accurate result from the study, all participants who stated that they exercised every day/more than 3 times a week were excluded. Furthermore, those who were only thin at a certain point in their lives (often as young adults) were also excluded.

The study was designed to focus on those who were persistently thin throughout their life in order to explore the hypothesis that this group would have genetic make-up contributing to this. As part of the pre-study questionnaire, one simple question was, “have you always been thin?” Only those who answered positively were included.

Researchers gathered the saliva of volunteers with a body mass index (BMI) of less than 18 for DNA analysis. These volunteers were all in good health with no medical conditions of eating disorders and were asked questions about their lifestyle and general health.

Which genes are related to obesity?

While there are hundreds of different genes that are linked in some way to obesity, researchers have discovered some of the specific ones that influence our appetite levels, the way we physically feel after a meal, our body composition, ability to burn calories amongst others. Obesity isn’t related to one single gene, it’s a mixture of hundreds that impact our metabolism, appetite and glucose absorption.

This research has made it easier to come up with weight-loss regimes that work for an individual’s genetic make-up, increasing the likelihood of maintaining weight loss over time. The graphic below identifies some of these genes.

Infographic showing which genes are related to obesity

What does this mean?

Alongside our DNA, one of the most important things that contributes to obesity is the amount of exercise we are getting. It’s imperative to get the steps in on a daily basis in order to maintain a healthy weight. Healthier Weight Medical Director, Mr Rishi Singhal, said the following:

“Although our DNA has been proven to have a huge impact on our ability to lose weight and keep it off, we have to take other steps to ensure we are maximising our chances of being healthy. Diet and exercise are both things that we can control, and it’s small changes that can make the biggest difference.

“Exercise doesn’t mean going to the gym 3 times per week, you can find short pockets throughout the day to get the blood pumping.

“There are many ways to increase calorie expenditure by doing everyday things that prevent you from ‘exercising’. In general, anything that gets you on your feet and moving is good. 

“If you do nothing else just try and spend a little more of the day on your feet!”

Mr Rishi Singhal, Healthier Weight Medical Director

Small changes can help in burning a few hundred more calories per day. Some tips are as follows;

  • if you’re boiling the kettle, walk around the kitchen or up and down the hall.
  • If you’re on the phone, stand up and walk around.
  • Everyday chores are an opportunity to burn a few extra calories, try to do them faster than you used to.

Despite the fact that the study shows a genetic component relating to our ability to lose weight, a healthy lifestyle is something that can be controlled.

If you’re thinking of having weight loss surgery but aren’t sure which procedure is right for you, why not call the Healthier Weight team on 0800 313 4618 to get some information on the surgical and non-surgical treatment options available to you, or click the button below to get a quote.

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