Are your genes making you fat?
Researchers say they have identified a gene believed to make people unable to resist fatty foods. A recent study published in the Journal of Clinical Investigation concluded that a certain gene leads one-in-six people to be hungrier and crave fatty foods more than those who don’t carry the gene.
Known as the FTO gene, individuals inherit one from each parent. FTO genes are classified as low- or high-risk. If a person carries two high-risk FTO genes, they are 70 percent more likely to be obese. Some studies even show individuals with two high-risk FTO genes can be as much as 6.5 pounds heavier than those with the low-risk gene.
Scientists at the University College London studied 359 healthy, normal weight men. Hunger levels were measured before and after a meal. In the men with two high-risk FTO genes, the hunger levels did not go down as much after the meal as they would normally in low-risk gene carriers.
The study was led by Dr. Rachel Batterham, an endocrine and obesity researcher. According to Batterham, people with two high-risk FTO genes are biologically programmed to eat more.
Study leaders hope the findings lead to new trials with experimental drugs that may be able to suppress appetite, which could be effective in treating obesity.
Dr. Jennifer DeBruler, an internal medicine physician who is also board-certified in obesity, says the research may explain why some people struggle with weight loss even when they try and eat right.
“Patients often feel they are to blame for their extra pounds,” says Dr. DeBruler. “Some have proper diets, use portion control and exercise regularly yet still have difficulty keeping weight off.”
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