Exercise Can Counteract Obesity Genes

Obesity is often genetic, but a new study shows that maintaining an active lifestyle and getting regular exercise can trump DNA in the battle of the bulge.

A new study finds that people with the obesity gene can offset their risk of obesity by maintaining a physically active lifestyle.

The study, conducted by the Medical Research Council Epidemiology Unit in Cambridge, UK, analyzed more than 20,000 people between the ages of 39 and 79. Researchers asked about the participants’ exercise habits and surveyed their DNA to see which obesity-related genes they inherited.

They paid special attention to 12 genetic variants that are known to raise the possibility of obesity and calculated a score for each person, which indicated their genetic predisposition to obesity.

The researchers found that while each DNA variant carried an increased obesity risk, the risk of being affected by genetic variants was 40 percent lower in people who maintained an active lifestyle compared to those who were inactive.

Although people with obesity-related genes are still at a higher risk of becoming overweight, testing for the gene probably won’t become common practice anytime soon. Lead researcher of the study, Dr. Ruth Loos, said that not enough is known about how genes and other variants affect weight, but one key factor can indicate whether you may be predisposed to obesity.

“Knowing if your parents were obese is a better predictor than knowing your genome, since you not only share genes with your family, but lifestyle as well,” she told the Los Angeles Times.

Results of the study appeared last week in the journal PLoS Medicine.

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