How genetic advantage keeps some individuals thin and healthy, study finds

A recent study, published in the open-access journal PLOS Genetics, found the “genetic architecture” of thinness and severe obesity in the “largest study of its kind.

Their discoveries highlight the various new genetic variants which are generally related to severe obesity and others associated with “healthy thinness”. This can help clarify why some individuals find it easier to stay thin than others.

They showed that thin people have a genetic tendency to remain slim. In contrast, obese people have a “greater risk” of gaining weight on the basis of their genes.

Interestingly, much of the focus on the so-called obesity epidemic is on environmental aspects, like calorific diets or lazy lifestyles, and rightly so. But, as this study displays, genetics can also play a critical factor. In brief, obesity is a more complex state than just eating too many burgers.

Findings of the study

According to the researchers, this study demonstrates for the first time that healthy slim individuals are normally thin as they have a lower burden of genes which increase a person’s chances of being heavy and not because they are morally superior, as some persons like to propose.

It is very easy to judge and criticize people for their heaviness, but the science illustrates that things are far more different and complex. And we have far less control over our heaviness than we might think.

Researchers led by the University of Cambridge in the UK observed the DNA of around 14,000 people. It included 1,622 thin people, 1,985 severely obese individuals, and 10,433 people with an average body mass index (BMI).

Firstly, researchers identified the genes which appeared to be associated with thinner individuals. Then, they worked out a genetic risk score for each.

As expected, researchers found that obese had a higher genetic risk score than normal weight individuals. This donates to their risk of being heavy. Hence, the genetic dice are loaded against those individuals.

It is not clear yet how these genetic variants can command weight gain, while a number of preceding studies have proposed that it is a matter of metabolism.

 Future prospects of the study

Obesity or overweight is an increasing problem in many different parts of the world. Over 93 million people, which is nearly 40% of the population, in the US are classified as being obese. And that number is continuing to rise. That figure is around one in four in the UK.

The researchers of the study hope that their study will aid to get a more nuanced understanding of the obesity epidemic and fine-tune new weight loss approaches.

According to them, if we can find the genes which prevent them from putting on weight, we may be able to target those genes to find novel weight loss plans and help individuals who do not have this benefit.

Areeba Hussain

Areeba is an independent medical and healthcare writer. For the last three years, she is writing for Tophealthjournal. Her prime areas of interest are diseases, medicine, treatments, and alternative therapies. Twitter @Areeba94789300

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