Exercise Negates Fat Gene

November 18, 2011

Shoppers have many excuses why they are not eating more healthful foods. Find out why having the FTO gene is no excuse for excess weight.

The FTO or “fat mass and obesity associated” gene is associated with a higher body mass index – but those who know they have this gene or suspect that they do, need not feel hopeless because a large international group of researchers found that the FTO gene has a 27% weaker effect on adults who are physically active compared to those who are inactive. Their conclusion comes from a meta-analysis of 45 prior studies analyzing data from more than 218,000 participants.
Achieving adequate physical activity in this case doesn’t mean running marathons or participating in ironman – it’s as simple as taking a walk five or six times a week, parking further from the store or work, or taking the stairs. Small bursts of activity add up; an hour most days of the week will do the trick.
Ruth Loos, the study’s author and group leader for the Genetic Aetiology of Obesity Program and Addenbrooke’s Hospital in Cambridge, England said that the effect of exercise was especially pronounced in North Americans. Compared to Europeans, one hour of exercise a day proved far more beneficial – unfortunately this is because Americans are more sedentary and so any increase in activity will prove beneficial. 
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), two-thirds of Americans are either overweight or obese, including one-fifth of children and teens.
What does it mean if you have the FTO gene? Unfortunately not much. The FTO gene does not determine whether a person will be overweight or not. People with two copies of the gene can be thin, and those with no copies can be heavier. The gene only confers a predisposition to being overweight. It’s also important to keep in mind that the FTO gene is just one of many risk factors for being overweight. Many other factors influence a person's weight including age, gender, diet, exercise and alcohol intake as well as other genes. The FTO gene is therefore only one small part of the full picture.
Encourage shoppers to be more physically active and to choose more fresh, whole foods; diet and exercise work synergistically to keep us healthy and feeling great.
The study can be found in the online journal PLoS Medicine.