Fat Gene; Can Obesity Really Be Inherited?
Your genes are why your eyes are brown and your hair is red. They’re what make you, well, you. But can genetics determine the size of your jeans?
Research shows that differences in your genes can lead to weight issues. So if your parents are obese, you’re more likely to be, too. But that doesn’t mean you will without question. Many people with obesity in their families don’t tip the scales. And you can fight the odds with diet and exercise.
Is There a “Fat Gene?”
There’s one gene that’s getting a lot of attention, called FTO. Scientists found that people with certain differences in this gene have a 20% to 30% higher chance of obesity. And those differences are pretty common.
Dozens of other genes are linked to weight as well. Some, for example, cause people to just naturally store more fat. But it’s still unclear exactly how much weight genes really do carry. Are you really destined to be overweight?
“Obesity is a very complex disease, and many factors can contribute to it and cause it, including genetics, behavior, and environment,” says Naima Moustaid-Moussa, PhD, director of the Obesity Research Cluster at Texas Tech University. Obesity can run in families — not because of genetics, but because of habits and environment, she says.
More than a third of adults in the United States are obese, Moustaid-Moussa says. “The number of Americans with obesity has steadily increased over the past five decades, but this can’t be explained by some dramatic changes in our genes.”
Jung Han Kim, PhD, an obesity researcher and professor at Marshall University’s Joan C. Edwards School of Medicine, agrees. Obesity has increased around the world with industrialization, a sedentary lifestyle, and a fat-filled diet, she says.