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Obesity May Be In Your Genes, But It Isn't Your Destiny

Reality BaseBy Melissa LafskySeptember 10, 2008 2:35 AM


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We know that DNA isn't necessarily the master of your future. We also know that obesity is gobbling its way through the U.S. population, and is linked to genetics. So it follows that while it ups your chances considerably, having a genetic predisposition for obesity doesn't automatically mean you're sentenced to a life of excessive weight, diabetes, heart disease, social discrimination, the list goes on. And now, to prove it, researchers have compiled a handy data set to show us just how the "fat gene" can be overcome. Evadnie Rampersaud, the study's lead author, examined DNA samples of 704 healthy Amish adults, most of them middle-aged, around half of them overweight, and about a quarter obese. She divided the group based on physical activity levels, with the most active group burning about 900 more calories a day—the equivalent of about three to four hours of moderately intensive physical activity, like brisk walking— than the most sluggish group. To the surprise of just about no one, she found that people with certain variations of the FTO gene were more likely to be overweight. However, she also discovered something that should bring hope to any dieter: Being genetically predisposed to obesity "had no effect on those with above average physical activity scores." So there you have it! Genes can be overcome! Though we should be careful not take this type of conclusion too far—we don't want the "Conquer your genes!" logic to start being applied in places where it shouldn't be.

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