People with two copies of an obesity-related gene called FTO on average are about 70 percent more likely to be obese than those who do not have the gene. However, a study of Amish people with the FTO gene shows that people are able to nullify the gene’s effect with vigorous exercise.
“When we looked at the Amish who were the most active, there is suddenly no effect of that gene,” said Dr. Soren Snitker of the University of Maryland, whose study appears in the Archives of Internal Medicine.
With more and more obese people feeling helpless, and a greater number of Americans opting for gastric bypass surgery, fat farms or weight loss boot camps each year, these findings demonstrate the resilience of the human body to overcome genetic predispositions if we follow a healthy weight loss program for women.
The food industry has been coming under fire recently (Los Angeles called for a moratorium on new fast-food restaurants in July) and have long maintained that people need to increase exercise – not limit their food choices.
“Researchers focused their study on a group of 704 Old Order Amish men and women in Lancaster County, Pennsylvania, a religious group whose members often do not drive cars or have electricity in their homes.
Snitker said the group offered a unique mix of activity levels, with some farmers in the community still using horse-drawn plows while others holding more conventional jobs, including factory work.
He and colleague Evadnie Rampersaud of the University of Miami were looking to see if physical activity in this group might offset the effects of the fat mass and obesity associated with the FTO gene, found in more than half of all people of European descent.” (Reuters)
People in the most physically active group expended about 900 more calories per day than the low-activity group. That would equal three to four hours of moderately intense physical activity such as brisk walking, house cleaning or gardening.
Modern Lifestyle and Conveniences to Blame?
“We probably carry genes that 150 years ago were not risk factors for obesity, but because of changes in our environment, they become liabilities,” said Snitker.
Researchers recommend that making it easier for people to incorporate what Snitker calls “free” exercise, such as biking/walking to work and providing appropriate weight loss information will help people to overcome any genetic predispositions to obesity and decrease risk for related disease such as type 2 diabetes.