Physical activity reduces genetic predisposition to obesity
Obesity is not a fatal disease written in our genes. On the contrary! According to the results of a recently published meta-analysis, physical activity can reduce by up to 30% the effect of the “obesity gene” which predisposes a person to this condition.
These new findings are encouraging not only for the obese people themselves, but also for obesity specialists treating obese people.
The many factors behind obesity
In the preamble to their study, the authors of this meta-analysis point out that many different people who are obese put their condition down to genetics too readily and so do not take enough action, having been persuaded that nothing will work.
However, while certain forms of the FTO gene, (present in 75% of Europeans and North Americans), are associated with an increased risk of obesity (20% to 30% more risk), diet and other environmental factors such as lifestyle have just as much influence on this risk.
But is this influence significant when there is a genetic predisposition? In order to know more, the authors have reviewed 45 studies carried out on more than 218,666 adults and 19,268 children and adolescents in total.
Genetic influence is lessened thanks to physical activity
By analysing the facts about these people, the authors confirmed that the presence of the gene in question increases the risk of obesity by 23%. But, in the individuals who carry this gene, the risk is lessened if regular physical activity is undertaken: the influence of the gene is less than 27% in individuals who carry it and who are physically active (22% risk of obesity) in comparison to those who are inactive (30% risk of obesity). These results were not, unfortunately, replicated for children.
"Our findings are highly relevant to public health,” say the authors. “They emphasize that physical activity is an effective way of controlling body weight, particularly in individuals with a genetic predisposition towards obesity. Thus, they contrast with the determinist view held by many that genetic influences are unmodifiable." This is another step towards more personalised healthcare and better targeted treatments.
"A focus on individual genetic traits is a mere distraction and reinforces the popular view of obesity as a problem that individuals have to deal with, rather than one that requires societal action," said Dr J Lennart Veerman of the School of Population Health at the University of Queensland in Australia.
This study supports the opinions of numerous experts who emphasise the importance of lifestyle and environmental factors in the treatment of obesity, instead of restrictive or selective diet, which are, as we all know, difficult to maintain long term.
“Physical Activity Attenuates the Influence of FTO Variants on Obesity Risk: A Meta-Analysis of 218,166 Adults and 19,268 Children,” PLoS One medicine, November 2011
Copyright © 2012 Doctissimo
Get more on this subject…