How Your Genetics May Be Contributing To Your Obesity

For centuries, obesity was thought to be a simple product of eating too much food and getting too little exercise. Thanks to modern technology, however, medical professionals have now identified multiple genetic factors that can significantly influence your likelihood of becoming obese. This genetic link, combined with environmental factors, helps explain why 48 percent of children born to obese parents become obese themselves, compared to only 13 percent of children whose parents are a healthy weight. If you have always struggled with weight loss and obesity, read on to learn how your genes may be contributing to the problem. 

Understanding the Genetic Purpose of Obesity

Back when humans faced frequent famines and long winters, a genetic tendency to obesity was actually a beneficial trait. People who had higher energy reserves, or fat, were more likely to survive a famine, and so the genes that promote obesity were passed on and favored. Your body still stores as much energy as possible in preparation for those hard times, but the conveniences of 21st-century living mean that individuals rarely need to draw upon those reserves, and the fat simply keeps accumulating. 

Determining the Influence of Genetics on Obesity 

There is no single "obesity gene," but rather a combination of many possible genes that contribute to your overall likelihood of obesity. These genes regulate things like your appetite, metabolism, hormone production and ability to convert energy into fat deposits, and they influence your chances of inheriting obesity by 40 to 70 percent. Consequently, if your family has a history of obesity, you have much higher odds of becoming obese as your shared genes express themselves. 

Questioning the Impact of Epigenetics 

An exciting new field of genetics, known as epigenetics, studies changes to the genes that occur after your DNA has already been established. These can be caused by environmental factors like exposure to certain chemicals and viruses or transcription errors as your cells copy DNA strands, and they can activate or deactivate genes despite the instructions in the DNA itself. More importantly, these epigenetic changes are heritable, meaning they can be passed on to your children. Because of these changes, obesity may suddenly arise in families with no prior history of it, and in spite of their actual genomes.

Overcoming a Genetic Predisposition to Obesity

Although genetics appear to play a large role in your likelihood of obesity, they do not necessarily mean that you must be obese for the rest of your life. Realizing that your weight loss struggles are not always the result of personal failure is an important first step toward real long-term progress, and you may even choose to have your DNA scanned to find the specific loci driving your weight gain. By arming yourself with knowledge and tailoring your weight loss plan to accommodate your unique genetics, you stand the best chance of not only losing weight but also keeping it off for years to come. 

For more information, consider contacting a professional like those at Martin Medical Center.