Obesity: Diet More Important Than Genes
> 9/11/2009 3:48:03 PM

It's true that some individuals carry a genetic predisposition toward weight problems. But their diets wield far greater influence on their ultimate health status - despite the widespread desire for a miracle cure, a simple truth remains: obesity may be minimized with behavioral changes.
A common variation in the FTO gene which often leads to type 2 diabetes has also been clinically proven to raise the obesity risk by as much as 250% when subjects have two copies of the gene (one inherited from each patient). 16% of the population has two of these genes, and at least 40% has one. These mutations affect the hypothalamus and lead to abnormal metabolic rates, and their presence clearly plays a large role in our obesity epidemic. Affected subjects need more energy to satisfy their appetites because of this genetic modification, and much of the energy they consume comes in the form of fat. A new study, however, concludes that the influence of diet on body mass outweighs the power of this gene.
Drawing from data collected during an extensive diet and cancer-related survey in which subjects completed lengthy questionnaires and kept daily food diaries, researchers at the Lund University Diabetes Center found that obesity rates correlated with the presence of the double gene only when subjects consumed a diet heavy in various fats. Subjects who had two copies of the gene but derived less than 40% of the energy they consumed through fat were no more likely to be obese than those who had only one gene.  
This study will not end debate. Some individuals will simply remain at least mildly overweight according to BMI standards even if their diets and lifestyles are perfectly rounded. Independent research also hints at the eventual development of pharmaceuticals that correct problematic metabolic rates. But weight gain can be avoided, and while many carry a genetic propensity toward unwieldy BMIs, dietary choices and active lifestyles can prevent the kind of severe weight gain that so often leads to type 2 diabetes and heart disease. Genetics no longer serves as a valid excuse to scorn healthy diets as exercises in futility.

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