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How do genes really affect how you gain weight—and what can you do about it?

How do genes really affect how you gain weight—and what can you do about it?

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Obesity continues to be a serious problem in Canada. According to Statistics Canada, the number of people diagnosed with this condition rose from 26.1% to 29.2% between 2015 and 2021 alone.

Although there have been numerous governmental, communitarian, and individual efforts to curb this rise, to some extent, obesity is beyond any actionable measures. However, that’s not the whole story. Those with a good understanding of the ways genes affect weight gain can better understand the lifestyle aspects they can influence for healthy weight management. So, without further ado, here’s an overview of the topic.


How genes affect your weight

Unfortunately, having specific genes may predispose you towards overweightness or obesity. One example is the OB gene, which produces the hormone leptin. Leptin can bind to a brain receptor called LEP-R—and LEP-R is crucial in regulating body mass. The continual blockage of this receptor can lead to leptin resistance, reducing satiety and leading to overconsumption of foods.

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That’s not the only gene that can push you to gain weight. There’s also the FTO gene, which profoundly affects many biological and metabolic processes. Its presence in your body promotes adipogenesis, which involves fat-laden cells—adipocytes—developing and accumulating as fat. If you have either the OB gene or the FTO gene, your likelihood of garnering an unhealthy weight increases. This can have serious consequences, including a higher risk of cardiovascular disease, musculoskeletal disorders, diabetes, and even some cancers.

However, your genetics in this aspect don't mean you're forever resigned to being overweight or obese. There are still steps you can take to achieve healthy weight management.


How to overcome genetic challenges to healthy weight management

Uncover your genetic susceptibility

One of the most helpful steps you can take to not be overcome with genetic inclinations toward weight gain is to be aware of your risks. Perhaps you’ve noticed that some of your relatives have a propensity toward obesity and are worried that your genetics will also lead you to have that condition. A great way to know for sure: take a DNA test that can decode that health information for you. You'll be able to accurately assess your risk of developing conditions that exacerbate weight gain and know the main factors that affect that risk, which is information that can be invaluable in aiding your other weight loss efforts.

Healthy lifestyle changes

Genetics influence a large part of weight gain—but not everything. Even if you have a predisposition for certain conditions, you still have the power to take proactive steps to avoid them and set yourself up for long-term health. Say it's established that you're biologically inclined toward obesity. You don't have to take that as an inevitability. Instead, if you notice a predilection toward overeating during your meals, you can shift your diet to plant-based protein foods that can provide you with fiber that can help you feel fuller for longer, like nuts, seeds, and lentils. This will stave off your hunger, improve your health, and give you better control over your weight.

You can also note that exercising, which increases energy expenditure, can help reduce excess adipose tissue and obesity. To preemptively prevent excess fat buildup, you can take up a calorie-burning aerobic activity such as running or cycling and commit to working out for a minimum of 150 to 300 minutes per week. This can encourage weight loss and improve your fitness to lower your risk of obesity. Overall, you can assert your agency over your actions and secure a healthy lifestyle for yourself that can block you from falling into genetic predispositions for weight gain.

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Find a support system

Weight loss in itself can be challenging, and having your genetics hold you back as well is yet another frustration added to the pile. Because of this, it might be helpful to share your obstacles and commiserate about them with others. Family and friends can help with this—but if they don’t share your hopes about weight loss and fitness, they may be unable to relate to your problems. Consider finding a support group with individuals who have similar weight loss goals instead. They’re easy to find online—a quick search for “weight loss groups near me“ can be enough to connect you with community support that can hold you accountable and keep you motivated to lose weight. You’ll be able to share your journey with both experts who can give science-backed strategies and inspiration and peers who can share the ups and downs of your weight loss ventures.

Consider medical weight loss

It is understandably difficult to undertake initiatives toward weight reduction when your biological systems are acting against you. Fortunately, there are new treatments available that can handle these physiological elements and grant you a better chance for weight loss. Your healthcare provider can prescribe you weight loss drugs if your body mass index (BMI) is 30 or higher, or if you have a BMI of 27 along with a preexisting weight-related condition, like diabetes. These medications include semaglutide, liraglutide, orlistat, and naltrexone-bupropion, and they usually help your weight loss efforts by suppressing your appetite or blocking your body from absorbing fat. This helps you manage the genetic components of weight gain and bolster the weight loss endeavors you undertake.

Genetics do play a role in increasing the likelihood of weight gain. However, you still have the power to be proactive with weight management.


This article has been produced by Morgan White. Reproduction and reuse of any portion of this content requires Merogenomics Inc. permission and source acknowledgment. It is your responsibility to obtain additional permissions from the third party owners that might be cited by Merogenomics Inc. Merogenomics Inc. disclaims any responsibility for any use you make of content owned by third parties without their permission.