In one of my favorite movies, “Gattaca,” people can remove the inferior genes. Leaving only the superior ones, the parents can choose how their children would look like and behave. On the other hand, without going through these artificial modifications, there are still those born naturally following the ‘old way.’ Ordinarily, these two kinds of humans have split into two classes: Qualified and unfit.
Although the movie is released in 1997, the synopsis of Gattaca feels closer to us nowadays. For instance, some studies already have reported that so-called, fat gene, can determine obesity. If it’s real, too bad, I will be the unqualified species in the future.
Wait a minute. I didn’t even know there WAS a fat gene!
Then, you’ve just come to the right place. This article aims to figure out what exactly is a fat gene and why we consider it as a contributing factor to being obese. Is it a real science or just a groundless rumor? Let’s find out together.
So, what exactly is the fat gene?
The most notorious one of all is called, FTO (standing for fatso) gene, or fat mass and obesity-associated gene. Located on chromosome 16, studies reported certain variants of the FTO gene appear to correlate with obesity in humans. It is the first gene discovered among many obesity genes. Mutations in the FTO gene result in increased appetite, lower satiety, and lower energy consumption of fat cells.
A study of 38,759 Europeans for variants of FTO identified an obesity risk gene. In particular, carriers of one copy of this gene weighed on average 1.2 kilograms (2.6 lb) more than people with no copies. Carriers of two copies (16% of the subjects) weighed 3 kilograms (6.6 lb) more and had a 1.67-fold higher rate of obesity than those with no copies.
So far, it seems the genes are an excuse for my belly.
It’s not over yet.
However, I would like to point out that the FTO gene variants don’t make us one hundred percent obese. Likewise, people who don’t have any copies of FTO mutations won’t live in a slender for a lifetime either. Having these genetic traits only increases the probability of obesity, and this probability can change by efforts of the individuals.
So how does FTO gene mutation affect us when we try to lose weight? Are people with FTO variant harder to lose weight?
Some studies answer these core inquiries, listed in the British Medical Journal: FTO genotype and weight loss: systematic review and meta-analysis of 9563 individual participant data from eight randomized controlled trials.
This study compares how dieting success rates vary depending on whether or not FTO gene mutations occur. Overweight people in the study group had attempted to lose weight through several methods such as diet, exercise, or medication. A total of 9563 participants were from North America, South America, and Europeans of different ages.
Conclusion: As a result of a diet from ten weeks to three years, weight loss effects of diet, exercise, or medication were similar, even with or without FTO gene variants.
To summarize, there are so-called ‘cursed obesity genes’ that might make us fat in first place, but the genes cannot affect our struggles to lose weight. In other words, environments around us still play a crucial role in building our shapes.
Genetics V.S. Environments
Let’s recap! We have learned that our unwanted fat can come from the two largest reasons: genetics and environments. Speaking of the circumstances, there is an another example that explains obesity is not the only genetic cause.
In 2006, American Diabetes Association studied the effects of different environments on diabetes as well as obesity in Pima Indians. Click here to access detailed contents of this study. Between the 9th and 13th centuries, the Indians had migrated to the American continent, and soon the continent divided into two countries: Mexico and U.S.
Adult Pima-Indian and non-Pima populations in the Mexico were examined using oral glucose tolerance tests and assessments for obesity, physical activity, and other risk factors. Results were compared with those from Pima Indians in Arizona.
The age- and sex-adjusted prevalence of type 2 diabetes in the Mexican Pima Indians (6.9%) was less than one-fifth that in the U.S. Pima Indians (38%) and similar to that of non-Pima Mexicans (2.6%).
The Final Verdict
Do I have obesity genes? This question may not be so important after all. As explained in the above examples, the possession of obesity genes may not lead to obesity. The human body is not simple enough to become overweight because of only one factor. This may be good news for you guys who got worried. However, it would also be a stumbling block to those who want to find ways to fight obesity through genetic manipulation.
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