A new study published in the Journal of Obesity has brought groundbreaking insights into how genetics affects weight gain. 

Conducted in collaboration with researchers from Loughborough University and a team of genetic scientists from DNA testing company, FitnessGenes, the study examined the correlation of physical activity and dietary habits with weight gain in men and women who carry different variations of the FTO gene—aka ‘the fat gene.’ 

The team surveyed over 500 FitnessGene customers about their body weight, exercise and dietary habits while also analysing their FTO genes, as obtained from a saliva sample provided by each participant. Variants of the FTO gene have been strongly associated with obesity risk and previous research has shown that carriers of a particular version—the ‘A’ allele—are more likely to be overweight or obese than non-carriers. 

 

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This study found, however, that the FTO gene appears to have no impact on body fat or BMI in physically active individuals. Further, in the group of customers studied, carriers of the FTO ‘risk’ ‘A’ allele were more physically active and showed more cognitive restraint in their diet than non-carriers, after learning hey had an increased risk of weight gain. 

This key finding suggests not only that exercise and higher cognitive restraint may negate a genetic predisposition to weight gain, but when people are empowered with genetically-personalised plans they are more likely to follow the guidelines. 

Dr. Dan Reardon, CEO and co-founder of FitnessGenes, sees empowerment as a significant motivational driver: 

“For many, it’s not enough to be told to follow instructions. Having the foundation of knowledge improves understanding and leads to a sense of empowerment. This is the difference between simply following guidance and actually achieving your goals.”