Richard G. Petty, MD

Half the Population Has Genes to Make Them Fat

I have talked a bit about my skepticism concerning the genetic contribution to obesity, insulin resistance and diabetes.

I was fascinated to see a huge fifteen year study that has just been published in the journal Science. I felt a touch of pride: back when the earth was new, I helped train more than one of the authors.

The study involved over 42,000 people and found an association with body mass index at every age [from seven to 70] in populations throughout the UK and Europe.

Unlike previous work, it shows a very common genetic link with mild obesity rather than a rare genetic link with extreme obesity.

There were 42 scientists in the group and they found that if people carry one copy of a variant in a gene called FTO, as does half of the general population, it will lead to a gain in weight of 2.6lb or put just over half an inch on their waists and raise their risk of being obese by one third. People with two copies of this variant in the FTO gene, which is the case in one in six of the population, then they will gain almost 7lb more than those who lack the variation and are at a 70 per cent higher risk of obesity.

The researchers then tested a further 37,000 people from Bristol, Dundee and Exeter as well as a number of other regions in Britain, Italy and Finland. In every case the same variant in the FTO gene – which is mostly present in the brain and pancreas, among other key tissues – was associated with type 2 diabetes and obesity.

They also showed that in children, this particular FTO variant was associated with increased body weight.

We hope that in the future, once we have found additional obesity genes, it may be possible to offer advice based on a person’s genetic make-up. We all know that folk are eating more and doing less exercise, but some people gain more weight than others. Similarly two people on the same diet and exercise plan lose different amounts of weight. There are undoubtedly some unrecognized factors in weight gain, but genes remain in the mix.

Never be disheartened if your first attempt at diet and exercise is not crowned with success: they are only two of a dozen factors that play into weight control.

Do not fall into the fatalistic trap of thinking that biology is destiny.

We are talking about a factor that may modulate the way in which we control out weight.

As promised, I shall soon be publishing a book detailing specific methods for dealing with whichever ones are important in your life.

Your future lies in your hands: not in a string of chemicals.

About Richard G. Petty, MD
Dr. Richard G. Petty, MD is a world-renowned authority on the brain, and his revolutionary work on human energy systems has been acclaimed around the globe. He is also an accredited specialist in internal and metabolic medicine, endocrinology, psychiatry, acupuncture and homeopathy. He has been an innovator and leader of the human potential movement for over thirty years and is also an active researcher, teacher, writer, professional speaker and broadcaster. He is the author of five books, including the groundbreaking and best selling CD series Healing, Meaning and Purpose. He has taught in over 45 countries and 48 states in the last ten years, but spends as much time as possible on his horse farm in Georgia.

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