Everyone’s body constitution is different. We’ve inherited different traits from our parents and grandparents. Some are responsible for how we look, while others contribute to how we function.
Considering the variability that each of us brings to the table, isn’t it but logical to consider genetics when striving to lose weight? As is with traits like dimples and blond hair, our weight too seems to be influenced by our genes.
Genes And Weight Gain
Certain genes have been linked to obesity and weight gain. These usually belong to the niche group of metabolism- and fat-deposition-related genes. For instance, if you knew your genetics predisposed you to gain weight, you could alter your diet and lifestyle to prevent it with maximum effectiveness. At least that’s what it seems like.
However, research in this domain does not present strong arguments in support of this approach to weight loss.
Do You Need To Know You Are Predisposed To Weight Gain?
There are a number of gene-testing kits available in the market that claim to provide you with details about how obesity-prone you are. They basically study a DNA sample, say from your saliva, and trace genes that contribute to weight.
One such gene is the FTO gene. Studies in mice and humans indicate a strong association of this gene with parameters such as BMI (body mass index), risk of obesity, and type-2 diabetes.
Does this mean that if you carry the FTO gene and other such genes, you will become fatter faster? Or you will struggle to lose weight more than those who do not carry these genes?
Thankfully, This Doesn’t Seem To Be The Case.
- Let’s start by explaining why we say seem:
A 2010 study involving 100 obese women at Stanford University showed that those who were on diets designed to be compatible with their genes lost 3% more weight in comparison to those whose diets did not cater to their genes.1 This held true even for popular weight loss diets like the low-carb Atkins diet and the low-fat Ornish diet.
This suggests that you have an advantage when you know how your body works when trying to lose weight. Your diet has to cater to your genes for it to be effective.
- Now flipping the coin over to the more recent side, we say thankfully because:
A more recent study (2017) involving nearly 10,000 participants showed that genetic information does not make that big a difference when it comes to weight loss, only half a pound to be precise.2
The study focused on the FTO gene alone. Those who were aware they carried this gene and were on specially assigned compatible diets lost only half a pound more than the control group.
This is great news for those trying to lose weight. While it may seem helpful to know exactly what kind of body you’re dealing with when trying to drop pounds, knowing that you can lose weight irrespective of your genetic make-up provides for greater motivation and, hence, better results.
Without completely dismissing the need for genetic tests, we have to admit that such tests may be useful for those who have undiagnosed genetic conditions (like one that interferes with the absorption of certain nutrients) and are trying to lose weight.
But the truth of the matter is that as of now, no strong evidence exists to link specific weight-related genes to specific diets. We do not yet understand the perfect working combinations.
Moreover, we cannot overlook the power of lifestyle and social influence when it comes to diet. And knowing how important both diet and exercise are in losing weight, the wiser decision would be to not give so much weightage to genetic tests. When it comes to weight loss, it’s healthier to go old school.
|↑1||INTERLEUKIN GENETICS, INC. AND STANFORD UNIVERSITY REPORT GENETIC TEST IMPROVES WEIGHT LOSS SUCCESS. Interleukin Genetics.|
|↑2||Celis-Morales, Carlos, Cyril FM Marsaux, Katherine M. Livingstone, Santiago Navas-Carretero, Rodrigo San-Cristobal, Rosalind Fallaize, Anna L. Macready et al. “Can genetic-based advice help you lose weight? Findings from the Food4Me European randomized controlled trial.” The American journal of clinical nutrition 105, no. 5 (2017): 1204-1213.|