New research from the University of Cambridge suggests we’re not as in control of our weight as we think we are.
Professor of Metabolism and Medicine Sadaf Farooqi and her colleagues asked 2,000 participants whose BMIs classified ‘thin’ for saliva samples for DNA analysis, along with information about their lifestyle and health habits.
Collaborating with Dr. Inês Barroso and his colleagues at the Wellcome Trust Sanger Institute to compare her results to the DNA of 14,000 people with BMIs ranging from thin to obese, they found our genes have a heavy influence on not only body weight, but also our ability to gain and lose weight.
“As anticipated, we found that obese people had a higher genetic risk score than normal weight people, which contributes to their risk of being overweight. The genetic dice are loaded against them,” Barroso said.
With this new study, scientists may be able to help those who didn’t win the genetic lottery in curbing weight gain.
“We already know that people can be thin for different reasons,” Farooqi said. “Some people are just not that interested in food whereas others can eat what they like, but never put on weight. If we can find the genes that prevent them from putting on weight, we may be able to target those genes to find new weight-loss strategies and help people who do not have this advantage.”
For now, the key takeaway from the study is to realize that a slim person isn’t necessarily following a strict diet, nor is an obese person sitting around on the couch eating potato chips all day.
“This research shows for the first time that healthy thin people are generally thin because they have a lower burden of genes that increase a person’s chances of being overweight and not because they are morally superior, as some people like to suggest,” Farooqi continued.
“It’s easy to rush to judgement and criticize people for their weight, but the science shows that things are far more complex. We have far less control over our weight than we might wish to think.”
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