Obesity gene not a barrier to weight loss

Public Health

21 Sep 2016

People carrying the obesity gene are not at a disadvantage when it comes to weight loss, new research shows.

The international study that looked at the relationship between the FTO gene and weight loss interventions in almost 10,000 participants found no relationship between FTO and the ability to lose weight.

“Individuals carrying the minor allele respond equally well to dietary, physical activity, or drug based weight loss interventions

“Genetic predisposition to obesity associated with the FTO minor allele can be at least partly counteracted through such interventions,” concluded the study authors in their paper published in The BMJ.

The results suggested that screening for the FTO genotype in routine clinical practice would not predict weight loss success.

“Future public health strategies for the management of obesity should aim to induce long term improvements in lifestyle behaviours, principally eating patterns and physical activity, since these will be effective in achieving sustained weight loss irrespective of FTO genotype,” they said.

Writing in an accompanying editorial Dr Alison Tedstone, chief nutritionist at Public Health England, says the causes of the obesity epidemic are multiple and complex, but current evidence suggests they have little to do with gene profiles.

“If we are to turn back the tide of obesity, a focus on personalised interventions based on the genome may not pay off, at least in the short term.”

Instead, she said, “a rebalancing of research towards whole systems approaches including environmental drivers may be of greater benefit to the population in the long term.”

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