Blaming obesity on inheritance is nothing new. People have used the phrase “it runs in the family” for generations. Although some might correlate being overweight with an existing hormone or glandular abnormality, the answer may actually lie in the much tinier components of the human body, the genes. Scientists in recent years have successfully identified various genes that may play a role in an individual’s weight.
BDNF and FTO Genes
Extensive research suggests that people having the brain-derived neurotrophic factor or the fast mass and obesity-associated genes, commonly referred to as BDNF and FTO, display an increased risk of developing obesity. Both of these genes and variants lie in the brains of adults and children and seem to have an effect on appetite. British researchers evaluated the eating habits and performed genetic testing on over 38,000 volunteers.
They discovered that individuals having BDNF variations typically preferred diets consisting of increased servings of diary and meat products along with eggs, nuts and beans. These people also had a tendency toward consuming 100 calories more per day compared to people not expressing the gene variant. Test subjects having FTO variations preferred eating more meals and snacks throughout the day. Throughout the day, these people leaned toward having diets containing higher levels of fat and sugar. The poor eating habits of people having either genotype may lead to obesity without adequate physical activity.
The levels at which the genes affect a person also depends on whether they inherit one or two copies of the variation. Researchers discovered that people having one copy of the FTO gene weighed around 2.6 pounds more than people not having the gene. Inheriting two copies of the gene increased body weight by 6.6 pounds.
Researchers discovered that a gene dubbed “ob” triggers production of a protein called lipin, which regulates how the body uses stored energy. UCLA scientists discovered that the presence of the lipin gene may very well explain how two different people consume the same number of calories and only one experiences weight gain.
After eating a high fat diet for six weeks, laboratory mice having elevated levels of lipin in their fat or muscles gained twice the weight compared to mice not having the protein. When located in fat cells, lipin causes fat storage, when found in muscle tissue; muscles burned carbohydrates for energy in place of fat, which expends fewer calories. Mice void of the ob gene did not exhibit lipin levels and so maintained a normal weight.
While genetics may play a role in a person’s appetite or metabolism, physicians advise that making a conscious effort toward eating a healthy diet and getting sufficient amounts of exercise ultimately remain vital for maintaining a healthy weight. However, researchers based in the Netherlands take genetic information more seriously and suggest that gene dieting may be the wave of the future. They propose that knowing if an individual has obesity related genes, diet and exercise programs specially designed for that person may prove more effective in the battle against obesity.
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