Why do some people stay thin regardless of what they eat?

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We all know someone who is able eat large servings of food but never put on a gram of weight.  What’s their secret?  Well according to new research, these people have an advantage when it comes to their genetic make up.

The western world’s obesity problem is becoming an increasing worry for health authorities.  On a global scale, the number of obesity cases have apparently tripled since 1975, according to the World Health Organisation (WHO).  The World Cancer Research Fund (WCRF) has recently noted that up to 40% of cancers could be avoided if we stopped eating unhealthily.  Unhealthy diets and lack of physical exercise are clearly linked to these obesity trends but our genetic makeup could also play a more important role than previously believed.

Genetic advantages

Leading studies have already looked into the genetics of overweight or obese people. However this new study, is more interested in taking a closer look at the genetic make-up of thin people.  These new results suggest that some people don’t have a gene that is linked to obesity.

This research shows for the first time that healthy thin people are generally thin because they have a lower burden of genes that increase a person’s chances of being overweight and not because they are morally superior, as some people like to suggest,” explains Sadaf Farooqi, from the University of Cambridge and the leading author of the study published in PLOS Genetics. “It’s easy to rush to judgement and criticise people for their weight, but the science shows that things are far more complex. We have far less control over our weight than we might wish to think.”

To carry out this study, Sadaf Farooqi and his team compared the DNA of 1,622 people who had a low Body Mass Index (BMI) with the DNA of 1,985 people who are considered seriously obese and 10, 433 people who are considered of a normal weight. After eliminating the factors that could have a significant impact on their weight,  researchers then discovered that  “genetic risk score” seen in obese people was much lower for thin people.

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Targeting genes to avoid obesity  

In other words, thin people have generally less genetic variations which increases the risk of putting on weight. This study does not include an additional factor however. Others factors, such as diet and regular exercise, are still crucial and can have a significant impact on weight gain. However this study shows that genetic factors also play a determining role. According to your DNA, your body will not necessarily react in the same way someone else’s body would when you eat a fatty burger.

Of course some people stay thin and healthy as they eat a healthy diet, avoid fatty or sugary food and regularly exercise.  In other words, many people follow the right steps in order to stay thin and in good shape.  However these researchers are suggesting that some people are simply genetically well-equipped to eat what they want and not gain weight. There is also the clinical interest. The researcher concluded by saying, “If we can find the genes that prevent them from putting on weight, we may be able to target those genes to find new weight loss strategies and help people who do not have this advantage.”


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