The obesity gene has been in the news again, but what does it mean for you?
Did you know that obesity affects roughly 500 million people around the world? That means that roughly 1 in every 15 people are obese. That’s a lot of excess body weight floating around the planet! Obesity is caused by a wide range of factors. A lot of people are overweight due to a sedentary lifestyle, poor diet choices, lack of exercise, and the list goes on– but did you know that there is a specific gene that may cause you to be heavier than normal? The obesity gene is a real thing.
Back in 2007, scientists discovered the FTO gene, a gene that has been linked to a higher risk of obesity and high BMI. People who carry a variant of this gene are more likely to be overweight, even if they live fairly healthy lifestyles. It’s just genetics working against them, or in days of sparse food options, genetics working for them.
Until recently, scientists knew that the gene was linked to obesity, but weren’t sure how. Then, in late 2015, a team of researchers from Harvard Medical School and MIT discovered that a faulty variation of the FTO gene prevents your body from burning the energy from the food you eat. This causes it to be stored as fat instead, leading to excess body weight and a high BMI.
The flawed FTO gene basically triggered the function of two other genes–IRX 3 and IRX5. These two genes play a role in thermogenesis, which is basically turning energy into heat. By turning on these genes, the FTO gene stops your body from producing heat, causing the energy to instead be stored as fat.
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What does this mean for you? Well, it could be a very clear sign that your life choices may not be the only contributing factor to excess weight. In fact, you may be living a fairly healthy life, but the faulty FTO gene in your genetic makeup is to blame for your overly high BMI, slow metabolism, and excess body fat.
You can call your parents and blame them for something real now. Congratulations on living the millennial dream!
Does tPeople with the faulty FTO gene can still be healthy and fit, it just takes a lot more hard work than for the average carb-burning Joe. You’ll need to make healthy life choices in order to get or stay in shape despite this “obesity gene”. These choices include:
- Eating less — Stick with no more than 2,000 calories per day (less if you’re not as active). Remember that your goal is to eat fewer calories than you burn, which will force your body to activate fat for energy!
- Eating higher quality –– Make all the food you eat high in nutrients and low in fat and sugar. This will ensure that your body has all the nutrients it needs to function properly, WITHOUT all the excess calories that will be turned into fat.
- Exercise more –– The more you exercise, the more likely you are to lose weight, and the less likely you are the have excess energy that your obesity gene can turn into fat. You should shoot for at least 4 or 5 exercise sessions per week, with each session lasting between 30 and 60 minutes. More exercise is ALWAYS better.
- Drink less –– Multiple studies have proven that alcohol contributes to a high BMI and excess body fat. Beer, in particular, can cause obesity problems, and even other alcohols (like wine, hard liquor, and cocktails) can be a problem. In order to combat your natural propensity for excess body fat, cut way back on the alcohol!
We’ll keep munching on butterless, air-popped popcorn till science solves this gene bummer.