Your DNA determines your hair color, nose shape, and eye color, so it makes sense that your genes play a role in your weight as well. Part of your ability to lose weight is encoded in your DNA, which is why everyone reacts differently to diets and workouts.
Harvard Health has found that each person’s genes have a different level of influence on their weight; for instance, some peoples’ genes are responsible for 25% of their weight gain and loss while other peoples’ may be as much as 80% responsible. But even if your genes have this much control over your body weight, there’s still a chance to beat the odds by living a healthy lifestyle.
Below, we delve deeper into the extent to which genetics affect a person’s weight, which genes play a part, and what you can do about it. We hope that knowing how your genes affect your weight will help you take steps toward a healthier life.
To What Extent Are Genes to Blame for Obesity?
The number of overweight Americans has been steadily increasing since the 1970s, and genetics alone doesn’t provide enough of an explanation for why this is happening. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) explains that genetic changes take place too slowly to be completely to blame for the American obesity epidemic. Several other factors are at play, contributing to weight problems. They include:
- Sedentary lifestyles
- Diets high in processed foods, sugar, and fat
- Oversimplified weight-loss strategies and fads
- Health conditions
- Psychological factors
- And more
Many researchers agree that, in order to see success in your weight-loss strategies, you must take an approach that accounts for your genes and lifestyle factors.
The extent to which genes affect weight loss is a complicated subject to cover, but in general, a person’s weight is determined in part by both their genes and their environment — and the one with greater influence depends on the person. But no matter your genetic risk of obesity, you can overcome this risk by working with your doctor to come up with a safe diet and exercise regimen that works for your current physical condition and any health problems you may have.
How to Know Whether Habits or Gene are Causing Weight Gain
“We know from research that some genetic predisposition increases your risk to be overweight and obese, but it can be overcome by lifestyle… genetics loads the gun, environment pulls the trigger. Genetics does play a role, but the truth is who you are is still determined by how you live your life.”
— Zhaoping Li, MD, PhD, Director of the Center for Human Nutrition at UCLA
Whether you have struggled with a long-term weight problem or have only recently started battling weight gain, it’s useful to know whether the extra pounds are due to your DNA or your lifestyle so you can take a targeted approach to your problem. While the information below is not meant to be a diagnosis, it may offer clues and insights into your situation.
Signs of Genetic Weight Problems
Your genes may have a significant influence on your weight if you’ve been overweight for most of your life and haven’t been successful with weight management with consistent diet and exercise. If you have a blood relative or parent that is also overweight, there’s a good chance that your weight is a genetic problem — and this likelihood multiplies if both of your parents are overweight.
Signs of a Lifestyle Weight Problem
Your genetics probably aren’t the biggest contributor to your weight gain if you’re able to get it under control with a conscious effort. People who are heavily influenced by food and who lose weight easily after changing their habits through diet and exercise are probably gaining weight due to lifestyle factors. Lifestyle weight gain can be due to inactivity, poor diet, and other habits.
Genes That Have Been Linked to Weight
While hundreds of genes are linked to various aspects of obesity, researchers have been able to pinpoint some of the specific ones that influence the way we feel after eating, our appetite levels, our ability to burn calories and use energy, our body composition, and more. There isn’t a single gene responsible, but rather hundreds that are linked to appetite, glucose absorption, and metabolism.
The identification of these genes in an individual makes it easy to create a custom weight-loss regimen that works for your genetic makeup and increases your chances of losing weight and maintaining your weight loss over time. Some of these genes are identified below.
The FTO gene, a protein associated with fat mass and obesity, is found on chromosome 16. The presence of this gene has shown to have a direct connection to obese individuals, as those with this gene have a 30% higher chance of being overweight.
The melanocortin-4 receptor (MC4R) gene is a known contributor to human metabolism. This gene controls how much energy we use from what we eat and contributes to our feelings of hunger. Some people have a rare variant of this gene and are slightly more likely to be overweight.
Ankyrin-B is a gene known for causing obesity in its variant form. It causes fat cells to absorb glucose at an increased rate, which significantly increases the size of the cell.
Panx 1, or Pannexin 1, is the gene that regulates obesity and the accumulation of fat. The presence of this gene is correlated with a higher risk of obesity.
The iroquois homeobox gene 3 (IRX3) is a gene that may cause difficulty losing weight. Studies have found that individuals with deficient expressions of this gene showed a 30% loss in weight.
The Good News About Genetic Predispositions to Obesity
Even if you express these genes, they should not be viewed as a lifetime obesity sentence or final destination. They’re merely risk factors, and health professionals urge people to never be discouraged by family histories or genetic makeup. Rather, they encourage at-risk individuals to embrace healthy living to overcome obesity, diabetes, heart disease, cancer, and other health complications.
Discover Your Genetic Tendencies Today
Your genes and your lifestyle both play a part in your weight, but your lifestyle is controllable while your genes are not. As such, you should focus on what you can control, which is the development of healthy habits. This will give you peace of mind knowing you’re doing everything you can to be your healthiest self.
If you’re concerned about your obesity risk, you can discover your likelihood of obesity and what you can do about it through a Psomagen’s Gene and GutBiome combo test. Visit our website today to place an order.