Obesity Genes Linked To Increased Appetite, Poor Dietary Choices

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Connie K. Ho for RedOrbit.com

Researchers from The Miriam Hospital´s Weight Control and Diabetes Research Center recently acknowledged that people who have particular “obesity genes” are more likely to eat more meals and snacks as well as consume more calories or foods high in fat and sugar.

The research, found in the June 2012 issue of the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, shows the differences in the fat mass and obesity-associated genes (FTO) as well as brain-derived neurotrophic factor gene (BDNF) genes. Researchers believe that these genes could influence eating habits that cause obesity. FTO and BDNF have been seen to be expressed in the part of the brain that influences eating and appetite. As such, they are found to be linked to overeating in children, and the researchers extended this finding to adults as well.

The results of the project show that it may be possible for people to lower their genetic risk by adapting specific eating patterns, practicing more vigilance in regards to food choices, and adding physical fitness to a daily routine.

“Understanding how our genes influence obesity is critical in trying to understand the current obesity epidemic, yet it´s important to remember that genetic traits alone do not mean obesity is inevitable,” noted lead author Dr. Jeanne M. McCaffery of The Miriam Hospital´s Weight Control and Diabetes Research Center. “Our lifestyle choices are critical when it comes to determining how thin or heavy we are, regardless of your genetic traits“¦ However, uncovering genetic markers can possibly pinpoint future interventions to control obesity in those who are genetically predisposed.”

The project lasted over six months, with over 2,000 subjects submitting a questionnaire based on their eating habits as well as participating in genotyping. The participants were part of the program Look Action in Health and Diabetes (AHEAD), which allowed researchers to look at a number of genes that were related to obesity. Look AHEAD, funded by the National Institutes of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases, is a multi-site clinical trial that examines how lifestyle changes can affect weight loss as well as the risk for cardiovascular diseases. The team looked at how the genetic markers impacted the pattern or content of the subjects´ diet.

The findings are along the same lines as other previous research done with children. The results show that variations in the FTO gene were related to the consumption of more meals and snacks per day and a greater percentage of energy from fat as well as more servings in fats, oils, and sweets. Researchers also found that people who had variations of BDNF tended to eat more calories per day and consume an increased amount of servings of dairy and meat, eggs, nuts, and beans food groups.

“We show that at least some of the genetic influence on obesity may occur through patterns of dietary intake,” explained McCaffery. “The good news is that eating habits can be modified, so we may be able to reduce one´s genetic risk for obesity by changing these eating patterns.”

To continue the project, researchers must first replicate before being allowed to utilize the results in possible clinical measures.

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