22 September 2016
People who are genetically predisposed to be at a greater risk of obesity need not worry about their genes preventing them from being able to lose any weight they gain, according to a new study.
A comprehensive research project from Newcastle University has offered evidence that carriers of the FTO gene - which is known to put people at a greater risk of obesity - do not suffer any handicap when it comes to losing weight.
Published in the British Medical Journal, the new collaborative systematic review and meta-analysis analysed the findings of eight studies involving 9,563 adult subjects. Each of these randomised controlled weight loss trials was designed to find out whether carrying the risk version of the FTO gene affected how much weight people can lose.
FTO carriers are known to be around three kilos heavier on average than non-carriers, as well as being 70 per cent more likely to be obese, but this new study offered no evidence that the gene prevented these individuals from losing weight, as people with the FTO gene were seen to respond just as well to weight loss interventions as anyone else.
This finding was reflected among both men and women, younger and older patients, and people of different ethnicities, though it was observed that most of the study participants were Caucasian, with smaller numbers from black, African American and Hispanic backgrounds.
Future research should therefore focus on exploring the effects of the FTO gene on weight loss in non-white ethnic groups, while the impact of other obesity-related genes also needs to be investigated. Nevertheless, the findings of this current study were hailed as positive for patients and clinicians alike by the researchers.
Study leader John Mathers, professor of human nutrition at Newcastle University, said: "We were excited to find that people with the risk version of FTO respond just as well to weight loss interventions as everyone else. This is important news for people trying to lose weight, as it means that diet, physical activity or drug-based weight loss plans will work just as well in those who carry the risk version of FTO."
He added: "You can no longer blame your genes. Our study shows that improving your diet and being more physically active will help you lose weight, regardless of your genetic makeup."
Obesity remains one of the biggest public health problems facing modern society, with more than 25 per cent of UK adults currently estimated to be obese - a percentage that is widely expected to increase further over the coming years.
The FTO gene has been shown to be the single biggest genetic contributor to this trend, so this new research will offer hope that those carrying this particular genetic variation can do something to address their problem. It also indicates that gene profiles may not be a major contributor to the current obesity epidemic.
Posted by Jeanette Royston
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