Obesity occurs where there is a chronic energy imbalance in individuals. It is generally believed that people who are obese tend to consume more calories. But, there are many people who do not consume extra calories but still are obese. So is obesity genetic?
Obesity is a condition when your body mass is 30 and above. There are many other parameters too to define a person as obese. But, the main focus of this article is to answer the question – is obesity genetic.
What do genes have to do with Obesity?
Recently, obesity has become a common condition among several individuals due to the “obesogenic” environment. Everywhere you turn to nowadays, there is always access to high-calorie foods.
Unfortunately, most people who consume these foods don’t engage in physical exercise to burn these calories.
Environmental factors play a major role in the obesity epidemic. Keep in mind that obesity is an important public health problem because it increases the risk of other health issues. Some of these issues are heart disease, blood pressure, diabetes, stroke, and other chronic diseases.
Living in an “obesogenic” environment doesn’t mean everyone will become obese. Genetic factors contribute more to obesity than environmental factors.
A study that compared the Body-Mass Index (BMI) of twins brought up in the same environment or apart shows inherited factors had a great influence.
Children who are affected by the obesity gene tend to feel extremely hungry which makes them eat more food. Obesity cannot be avoided in this type of situation.
Surprisingly, in most obese people, no genetic cause can be associated with the condition. A study found that more than 50 genes linked to obesity had very small effects. Most of the genes contain variants that are linked with monogenic obesity, a factor that has been observed in other common conditions.
In most cases, obesity is a result of several factors working together such as the environment and genes.
Relationship Between Genes and Energy Balance
The brain helps to control food intake by reacting to signals received from the fat tissue, the digestive tract, and the pancreas. Leptin, ghrelin, and insulin are the hormones that transmit these signals with other small molecules.
After receiving the signals, the brain sends instructions to your body, to either eat more and reduce energy or eat less and increase energy. Genes determine these signals and responses that influence food intake. Seemingly insignificant changes in the genes can affect the signal activity.
Food is important to all living beings as it helps to carry out several activities after it has been converted to energy. Human energy regulation helps to prevent weight loss rather than enable weight gain.
Influence of Genes on Obesity
Is obesity genetic? Is there a definite answer to this question?
It’s been established that genes contribute to obesity, especially if you have most or all of the following characteristics:
- One of both of your parents or relatives is overweight. If both of your parents have obesity, your likelihood of being underweight is about 20%.
- You have been overweight from childhood.
- No matter how hard you try, you can’t seem to lose weight.
Genes may not contribute to your weight gain if you have most or all of these characteristics:
- You have slightly overweight, but can easily lose weight through changes in diet and exercise.
- Are influenced by the availability of food.
- You can regain lost weight after making certain changes to your lifestyle.
These characteristics listed above implies that you have the genetic tendency to be overweight, but it can be controlled.
People with a moderate genetic predisposition to be overweight can easily lose weight on their own by consuming fewer calories and engaging in exercises.
What are Thrifty Genes?
According to the “thrifty genotype” hypothesis, genes helped our ancestors survive famine. Nowadays, there’s abundance of food, which is a challenge to the thrifty genes.
This evolutionary adaptation provides information as to why 85% of us carry thrifty genes that help us to store fat and conserve energy.
People who have a strong genetic predisposition to be obese may find it hard to lose weight, regardless of what they do. Even if they lose weight, maybe after an illness, they may not be able to maintain the weight.
However, through a doctor’s guidance, people who belong in this category can maintain a moderate weight.
How can Obesity Be Prevented?
Whether you are at risk of Obesity, overweight, or have a healthy weight, take steps to prevent unhealthy weight gain.
Here are things you can do to achieve that:
1. Monitor Your Weight Regularly
Make an effort to weigh yourself at least once a week as it helps to determine if your weight has increased or decreased. People who practice this technique are likely to keep off excess pounds.
Take a walk for 30 minutes every day. Jog, run, engage in a sporting activity, and don’t sit at a spot for long. Moderately physical activities help to burn excess calories.
3. Eat Healthy Foods
Consume more fruits and vegetables and reduce your snack intake. Avoid saturated fat, and limit your alcohol intake. Also, remember to eat on time.
4. Be consistent
Due to busy schedules, you might not be able to follow through with this procedure regularly. But it is important to remain consistent so that you’ll maintain a healthy weight for a long time.
Joshua is a certified diet planner. He has been researching extensively in nutrition, pain, obesity, and diabetes. He joined our team in February 2021 as an author.