The Genetics of Obesity

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With the exception of rare genetic conditions associated with extreme obesity, currently, genetic tests are not useful for guiding personal diet or physical activity plans. Research on genetic variation that affects response to changes in diet and physical activity is still at an early stage. Doing a better job of explaining obesity in terms of genes and environment factors could help encourage people who are trying to reach and maintain a healthy weight. Health care practitioners routinely collect family health history to help identify people at high risk of obesity-related diseases such as diabetes, cardiovascular diseases, and some forms of cancer.

Family health history reflects the effects of shared genetics and environment among close relatives. Those changes can improve the health of family members—and improve the family health history of the next generation. Skip directly to site content Skip directly to page options Skip directly to A-Z link.

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Exploring genetic risk

Facebook Twitter Email Syndicate. Where did the story come from? What kind of scientific study was this? What were the results of the study? What interpretations did the researchers draw from these results?


There are a few important points to note when interpreting these findings: This type of study is used to identify regions or areas of the DNA that are associated with the trait in question, in this case a higher BMI. However, associating a variant with a trait does not necessarily mean that one causes the other, and most of the variants lie in pieces of DNA with no known function.

The authors in this study identified the genes near to these variations that seemed likely to be involved, but more research will be needed to identify the variations that are actually causing the increase in BMI observed, and to confirm which genes they affect. This means that multiple factors are having an effect, both genetic and environmental, and a lot of different genes will each be contributing a small effect.

The eight variants identified in this study were estimated to account for about 0. Therefore, there will be other genetic variants having an effect, as well as environmental factors such as diet and physical activity.

Obesity and Genetics: Nature and Nurture

These results come from populations with European ancestry and may not apply to populations with different ethnic backgrounds. Sir Muir Gray adds The Daily Telegraph, 15 December New gene variants linked to obesity. Financial Times, 15 December Compulsion to overeat is mainly in the genes, study shows. Why is it that some people do not manage to lose weight despite their best efforts, while others can eat whatever they please and stay thin?

Is Obesity Genetic? The Fat Gene, Christine Marquette, Nutrition Diet & Weight Loss

The answer, suggests a new study, may be genetic. Sadaf Farooqi, a professor at the Wellcome Trust-MRC Institute of Metabolic Science, University of Cambridge, United Kingdom, led the new research, which compares the genetic makeup of people who are overweight with that of people who are thin. As the researchers explain, genetic association studies so far have focused on people who are overweight, as well as zooming in on body mass index BMI and obesity. To the authors' knowledge, this is the first time that a genetic association study has also examined thin and healthy individuals.

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The researchers took DNA samples from 1, thin participants, 1, people with "severe early-onset obesity," and a further 10, control participants whose weight was within the normal range. In their analysis, the scientists found genetic variants that previous research had already linked with obesity. They also identified new associations between specific genetic loci and both severe obesity and thinness.

The researchers generated a "genetic risk score" from the 97 genetic locations relating to a person's BMI. She says, "As anticipated, we found that obese people had a higher genetic risk score than normal weight people, which contributes to their risk of being overweight. The genetic dice are loaded against them. The study also found that slim individuals had a significantly lower genetic risk score.

Where did the story come from?

Farooqi explains. We have far less control over our weight than we might wish to think. The researcher also explains how the findings may lead to new therapies for obesity.

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  8. If we can find the genes that prevent them from putting on weight, we may be able to target those genes to find new weight loss strategies and help people who do not have this advantage. In the United States, almost 40 percent of the adult population, which equates to more than 93 million individuals, have obesity, according to the Centers For Disease Control and Prevention CDC.

    Maintaining weight loss is a difficult task for most, with some studies suggesting that 50 percent of people who manage to lose weight return to their original BMI within 5 years.

    Genetics of obesity - Wikipedia

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