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September 12, 2008

Weight Loss: You Can Overcome Obesity Gene with Exercise, Study Finds

People with two copies of an obesity-related gene called FTO on average are about 70 percent more likely to be obese than those who do not have the gene. However, a study of Amish people with the FTO gene shows that people are able to nullify the gene's effect with vigorous exercise.

"When we looked at the Amish who were the most active, there is suddenly no effect of that gene," said Dr. Soren Snitker of the University of Maryland, whose study appears in the Archives of Internal Medicine.

With more and more obese people feeling helpless, and a greater number of Americans opting for gastric bypass surgery each year, these findings demonstrate the resilience of the human body to overcome genetic predispositions if we follow a healthy weight loss program.

The food industry has been coming under fire recently (Los Angeles called for a moratorium on new fast-food restaurants in July) and have long maintained that people need to increase exercise - not limit their food choices.

"Researchers focused their study on a group of 704 Old Order Amish men and women in Lancaster County, Pennsylvania, a religious group whose members often do not drive cars or have electricity in their homes.

Snitker said the group offered a unique mix of activity levels, with some farmers in the community still using horse-drawn plows while others holding more conventional jobs, including factory work.

He and colleague Evadnie Rampersaud of the University of Miami were looking to see if physical activity in this group might offset the effects of the fat mass and obesity associated with the FTO gene, found in more than half of all people of European descent." (Reuters)

People in the most physically active group expended about 900 more calories per day than the low-activity group. That would equal three to four hours of moderately intense physical activity such as brisk walking, house cleaning or gardening.

Modern Lifestyle and Conveniences to Blame?

"We probably carry genes that 150 years ago were not risk factors for obesity, but because of changes in our environment, they become liabilities," said Snitker.

Researchers recommend that making it easier for people to incorporate what Snitker calls "free" exercise, such as biking/walking to work and providing appropriate weight loss information will help people to overcome any genetic predispositions to obesity and decrease risk for related disease such as type 2 diabetes.

Posted by Laura on September 12, 2008 | Permalink


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Posted by: girl_sweet | Sep 16, 2008 10:21:24 AM

Well, this is the good news because many people blame their weight problem to the faulty genes. Although genes do play an important role in shaping the way we live a healthy life or an unhealthy live a lot can be improved by living a healthier lifestyle. For instance my grandfather got diabetes at the age of 84 -- just a year before he died so that practically means he spent his entire life without diabetes. My grandfather used to maintain a very disciplined life. Contrary to that my father got diabetes in his mid-thirties because of his erratic and unhealthy lifestyle. The similar applies to weight problem too. You can definitely keep your weight low by following good habits.

Posted by: Sarah Watts | Sep 16, 2008 1:10:04 PM

I couldn't agree more.

Posted by: Cathy | Sep 16, 2008 7:37:58 PM

Losing weight is hard, no doubt. We have to remember that almost anyone can lose weight if they really take the initiative. Your Amish study shows that. You have to relly stick with it though. If you don't, then you may not really want to change...

Posted by: Weightloss Acceleration | Sep 20, 2008 12:11:16 AM

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