We inherit many things from our parents such as mannerisms, the way we talk, the viewpoints we have, and even the way we lose and gain weight. Clearly external factors play a role in our daily lives, but there are other factors that affect how we operate and they’re a bit beyond our control and these we call our genetics. Genetics influence every aspect of human physiology, adaptation and development; obesity is no exception. Obesity is rarely caused only by genetics alone, obesity is also influenced by lifestyle factors.
When you find yourself wondering if obesity simply runs in the family and theres nothing to be done, know that ‘YES’ genetics may play a role in your weight loss journey, but genetics do not control your life or predict your destiny. There are a few common genetic factors that can be passed down.
Genetic factors that influence obesity…
- FTO gene – A very common gene strongly linked with obesity. People having this FTO gene variant are 70% more susceptible to obesity.
- Ankryn-B – A gene variant that could cause people to put on a lot of weight at no fault of their own. A study showed that this gene variation causes fat cells to bring glucose into the cell much faster than normal. This gene is also linked to many other conditions such as diabetes, irregular heartbeat, muscular dystrophy, autism, etc.
- 14-3-3 Zeta – A protein found in every single cell in the body. Researchers found when they silenced this protein there was 50% reduction in the amount of visceral fat (white fat). This protein controls adipogenesis (how the body creates new fat cells) as well as the growth of the fat cells. You’re developing more fat cells and its making them larger.
There are 37 genes that are very well established for really affecting obesity. And in most cases genetic-related obesity is caused by multiple genetics rather than just one.
When you have a higher BMI and obesity-causing genes…
Based on research it appears that when a BMI is higher, this can activate obesity-causing genes. These obesity-causing genes have a predisposition to cause other obstacles and challenges to those looking to lose weight and become healthier.
How to address obesity when it “runs in the family”…
With some of these genetic predispositions, like carrying the obesity-promoting FTO gene, studies have shown that exercise can offset obesity-causing effects the gene has by 30% in adults. Additionally, environmental factors play a big role and layer on-top of genetic-related obesity amplifying unfortunate results of excessive weight gain.
The main focus in addressing obesity should most always, initially, begin with focusing on external factors.
Exercising, eating a well-balanced diet, portion control, keeping stress levels low, staying hydrated, etc. play a larger part in how you lose weight than genetics. Keeping your BMI in a healthy range correlates to less active obesity-causing genes meaning less resistance to other weight loss efforts. Helping your body along by fueling it/supporting it with what it needs externally helps to not only lower weight gain risk, but helps to keep processes functioning as best possible internally as well regardless of the genetics you may carry. Achieving and up-keeping homeostasis is key.
Optimizing the body to help counteract obesity…
When your body is optimized or in homeostasis, whether you carry obesity-causing genes or not, (meaning optimized mitochondria, cell energy, cellular communications, balance of hormones, and giving it adequate fuel), everything, generally, works great; energy is high. When you start to gain a little bit of weight, addressing it earlier will help you get back to that optimized state fairly effortlessly as you’ll have less work to do and little damage to rectify. If weight gain and the disruption of hormones, neurotransmitters, receptors, etc. continues for an extended amount of time, you’ll find that the weight loss strategies successfully done in the past will not work as they used to work.
Cellular communications, hormones, pathways, etc. may not be working optimally, and the body will most likely become out of balance. In addition to being out of balance and contributing to an increasing BMI, (as read previously) for those that carry obesity-causing genes, the body tends to activate more of these genes as BMI rises. This can lead to a snowball effect of health challenges such as becoming leptin resistant, thyroid resistant, insulin resistant, and more.
Learning how to fuel, balance, and optimize your body by understanding which foods, food compounds, supplements, and overall lifestyle factors will be key to your particular health needs and challenges. For example, certain vegetables will help heal Colitis and some will make it worse. Studies show that broccoli is good for healing the inflammatory response in Colitis, but bad for hypothyroid conditions. When you have some information about your health, you can develop a plan to correct issues and get back to optimal health.
So while obesity, generally, is due to an imbalance in energy expenditure where the body is taking in more calories than it needs, there are genetics at play that may predisposition you to hold onto extra pounds. There are other external factors that have a larger impact on weight gain and most often they can be controlled.
First and foremost exercise and choosing the right personalized diet designed for your body’s particular needs can be great places to start when you’ve put on extra weight and aren’t sure how to address it. Remember, your foods affect your genes, your foods affects your hormones, your foods affect neurotransmitters. You can overcome health challenges that are linked to genes; a family history of obesity does not destine you for the same fate. You may have a higher predisposition that’s all, nothing more than that.