Exercise May Counteract Obesity Gene

Regular, moderate physical activity can curb the impact of the obesity gene, a new study shows.

Exercise may counteract obesity genePeople who are genetically predisposed to obesity can reduce their risk by engaging in regular exercise, according to recent study findings.

Researchers at the Genetic Aetiology of Obesity Programme at Addenbrooke’s Hospital in Cambridge, England, analyzed data from 45 prior studies comprising more than 218,000 participants. They found that the effect of the “fat mass and obesity associated” (FTO) gene is 27 percent weaker in physically active adults compared to those who are inactive.

“About one hour [of activity] a day, five days a week, will have the effect we saw in our study,” study author Ruth Loos, Ph.D., told HealthDay, noting that activities like walking the dog or riding a bike to work can make a big difference. She added, “We hope that studies like ours convince people that even when genetically susceptible, a healthy lifestyle will help in the prevention of weight gain.”

Many experts believe that the growing rate of obesity in Western culture has been driven not only by genetics, but also by environmental changes. Specifically, they cite the prevalence of more sedentary jobs and increased reliance on automotive transportation over the past 30 years, combined with an increase in the amount of processed foods in the average diet.

Interestingly, the latest research findings showed that the effect of exercise on the obesity gene was more pronounced in people from North America than from Europe. Dr. Loos speculated that the difference may be due to the fact that the rate of obesity is higher in North America, and that Europeans are generally more physically active. Consequently, the range of body mass index (BMI) and physical activity is greater in North Americans such that the effect can be larger, Dr. Loos noted.

Study findings were published November 1st online in the journal PLoS Medicine.

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