Overcoming The Fat Gene, FTO – Andrew Weil, M.D.


Even if you inherited a genetic variant known as the FTO gene that predisposes to weight gain, you can overcome much of its effects. Better yet, experts say those effects themselves aren’t that powerful. To reach this conclusion, researchers led by a team from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, analyzed the results of 60 earlier genetic studies involving data on more than 200,000 people who had been screened for 2.5 million genetic variants. Separating the individuals in the study who were physically active from those who were more sedentary, the researchers determined that regular exercise appeared to offset the effects of the FTO gene by about 30 percent. The researchers also noted that being born with this genetic variant doesn’t doom you to being overweight. Previous studies have shown that individuals who carry two copies of this variant – one from each parent – weigh on average only about 6.5 pounds more than those who don’t carry the FTO variant at all. However, during the investigation the researchers identified 11 new genetic variants that could predispose individuals to increased risk of weight gain and noted that future studies may turn up even more. Stay tuned.

My take? The more we learn about the genes associated with obesity, the better able we will be to find ways to prevent and treat it. However, experts in the field say that genetic factors contribute to only about five percent of all cases of obesity. Some scientists maintain that changes in eating and exercise patterns alone over the past two decades can’t fully account for the ongoing obesity epidemic, and have suggested that chemicals in our environment may share the blame by changing the ways we (and laboratory animals) respond to diet and exercise. Even so, based on what we know now, almost all overweight and obese people can lose weight by making healthy changes to their diets and getting regular physical activity.

Mariaelisa Graff et al, “Genome-wide physical activity interactions in adiposity ― A meta-analysis of 200,452 adults.” PLOS Genetics, April 27, 2017, doi.org/10.1371/journal.pgen.1006528

Also in this week’s bulletin:

If you are tired of too many prescriptions – and have had enough of taking medications for ailments that may not require them – then my new book may be for you: looks at the problem of overmedication, the science that shows drugs aren’t always the best option, as well as helpful, reliable integrative medicine approaches.

Share Dr. Weil’s expertise with your friends & family