People who are genetically inclined to becoming obese can reduce their chances of excessive weight gain by 40% through regular exercise, a study has shown.
Although obesity is mostly due to lifestyle choices, such as an unhealthy diet and lack of exercise, some people are more susceptible to gaining weight due to their genes, but this does not mean these people are resigned to an unhealthy life, according to the research.
It claims that everyone can reduce their risk of becoming obese with moderate daily exercise, such as gardening, regardless of their genetic make-up. The most active people can cut their chance of developing obesity by 40% on average when compared with the least active.
The findings challenge the idea that obesity is unavoidable if it runs in families.
More than 20,400 people aged 39 to 79 were studied for the research, carried out by a team from the Medical Research Council epidemiology unit in Cambridge.
The subjects gave DNA samples and completed questionnaires about how much physical activity they undertook at work and in their leisure time. Their DNA was then examined to see if contained one or more of 12 genetic markers known to increase weight and the risk of obesity. This information was used to calculate a genetic susceptibility score for each person, indicating their risk of obesity.
The research showed the link between genetic score and a high body mass index was significantly more pronounced in inactive people.
The experts concluded: “Our data show that increased physical activity levels are associated with lower BMI in the population overall, but that particular individuals who are genetically predisposed to obesity would benefit more from increased physical activity levels than individuals who are genetically protected.”
The study was published in the journal PLoS Medicine.