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What is the Connection Between Obesity and Genetics?

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  • Written By: N. Madison
  • Edited By: Jenn Walker
  • Last Modified Date: 08 November 2016
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The results of some scientific studies suggest that there is a link between obesity and genetics. Some findings indicate that the presence or mutation of certain genes may make a person more likely to be obese. Some scientists also believe genes that encouraged the storage of fat long ago when food was scare still encourage fat storage today when many people have much more food readily available. This, they theorize, may be partially responsible for obesity. Still, scientists say that a person’s lifestyle, diet, and environment usually play major roles in the development of obesity.

Many of the theories regarding obesity and genetics stem from the resemblance in weight and shape that is often present among family members. For example, a person who has an overweight biological parent may be more likely to be obese himself. Scientists assert, however, that genetics are not solely responsible for obesity. A person’s environment and lifestyle play important roles as well. If an individual lives with family members who consistently overeat, for instance, he may become obese because of that influence rather than because of the relationship between obesity and genetics.

One of the genes that may play a role in obesity is referred to as the melanocortin 4-receptor gene. Mutations of this gene are thought to play a role in appetite and feeding habits. Scientist believe that it is only responsible for a small number of obesity cases, however. Other gene mutations may contribute to the problem as well.

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Another gene variation that is often discussed in terms of genetics and obesity is FTO. Some studies have shown that people who have a variation of this gene may be more likely to become obese than others. Based on such studies, the presence of this gene variant influences the consumption of more food, especially foods that are higher in calories. As such, this particular gene variant seems to influence the amount and types of food a person consumes rather than changes in metabolism or other body processes that could contribute to obesity.

Though examining the connection between obesity and genetics may not put an end to weight problems, there are ways in which it may help. When people have a genetic predisposition to obesity, they may use this information to take steps to prevent excessive weight gain and put extra effort into staying physically active. Additionally, doctors may use this information in screening those with a genetic link to obesity for obesity-related health conditions.

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