Ask anyone what they need to do to lose weight and words like “diet” and “exercise” will be tossed around. And while these two steps are certainly important in your journey towards a healthier life, you may not have considered one other very important factor—genetics. More and more, scientists are discovering the very key role that specific genes play in your body’s tendency to gain weight and lose it effectively. According to researchers, there could be more than a 100 different genes that cause men and women to gain weight.
The FTO Gene
The FTO (fat and obesity) gene is estimated to affect 16% of the American population. Adults with two copies of a certain variant in the gene (one from your mother and one from your father) are 40% more likely to develop type 2 diabetes and 60% more likely to become obese than those who do not carry the variants. People who carry only one copy of the FTO gene variant tended to be heavier than those who do not carry the variant at all.
This FTO gene variant can cause a rise in the hormone ghrelin after eating, causing you to feel hungrier sooner which may result in overeating or indulgence in high-calorie foods. To combat this problem, a high protein diet is recommended to help dieters feel fuller longer and suppress the release of ghrelin.
The ADRB2 Gene
Sometimes called the “thrifty” gene, ADRB2 impairs the breakdown of neutral fat—this can result in a slower metabolism and increased fat storage for later use. This gene was useful in times of famine or in the past when food may have been less abundant. Today however, it can cause people who are following appropriate 2,000-calorie diets to pack on additional weight. Those who carry a variant in this gene will need to take in a balanced diet with fewer calories. If you have questions about what to eat for proper caloric intake and nutritional balance, see your doctor or a nutritionist.
The UCP1 Gene
This gene slows the use of brown fat in the body. Filled with blood vessels and life-sustaining cellular structures, brown fat is used by the body to produce heat and keep you alive. Brown fat is found in newborn babies and is released to keep their bodies warm in the hours and days following birth when they cannot shiver or curl up to stay warm. A variant in the UCP1 gene slows the use of this fat and makes it hard for your body to use it as a source of energy—consequentially, this fat is retained in the body, influencing weight gain.
Do you carry these genes?
In the battle for health and weight loss, knowledge is power. Consider your genetics in your dietary & fitness program. It is a fact now that the “one-diet-fits all” mantra is obsolete. A simple at-home test can provide valuable precision information about your body and help guide your journey to a healthier you.