Physical activity reduces the effect of the obesity gene in adolescents

May 4, 2010, FECYT - Spanish Foundation for Science and Technology
Physical activity reduces the effect of the obesity gene in adolescents. Credit: SINC

The FTO gene is obesity's main ally. Several studies are now attempting to reveal the factors that play a key role in fighting against it. A new study led by Spanish researchers shows that a physically active lifestyle during adolescence can reduce the effect of a mutation in this gene which predisposes someone to becoming overweight or obese.

Among the correlated to , the FTO (or fat mass gene) is one of the genes responsible for the accumulation of fat in humans. "Each copy of the mutation of this gene is associated with an increase of 3.3 lbs. This means that people who have two copies can weigh 6.6 lbs more than those who have no copies", Jonatan Ruiz, leader of the study and researcher at the Karolinska Institute in Stockholm (Sweden), explains to SINC.

The authors based their research on data collected in the European study HELENA, led by the University of Zaragoza, which analyses the effect of the FTO gene on weight and in adolescents from nine European countries, among them, Spain. Furthermore, the new work records if the effect of this gene is independent of the level of physical activity performed by adolescents.

The results, published in the journal Archives of Pediatrics & Adolescent Medicine, reveal that in Europe, 37% of the assessed adolescents did not have any copy of the mutation, 47% had one copy and 16% had two. The research project appears among the five finalists for the Award for Scientific Excellence organised by the International Association for the Study of Obesity (IASO).

"Although the genetic mutation is linked to a higher rate of body mass, fat, and waist circumference, what is interesting is that its effect practically disappears among adolescents who perform the daily recommended amount of physical activity", highlights the expert.

It's not all in the genes

For this reason, "performing the recommended amount of physical activity can counteract a genetic predisposition to become overweight or obese", stresses Ruiz. The study also challenges "the widespread belief and fear that genetics determine the risk of developing a disease and that we can't do anything about this".

In this regard the work demonstrates that modifying lifestyle can cancel the negative effect some genetic mutations have on health. "For young people, one hour of sport per day is enough to reduce the potential risk of this genetic mutation", he adds. However, the study observed that almost 60% of European do not comply with these recommendations.

The fat mass gene and the Mediterranean diet

Obesity is a disease influenced by both genetic factors and lifestyle (nutrition and ). Another research project, led by Amelia Martí from the University of Navarra, analyses the effects of the rs9939609 variant of the FTO gene on weight change, as well as its modification through consuming a Mediterranean diet.

This study, published recently by the International Journal of Obesity, was performed on 776 subjects with high cardiovascular risk, aged between 55 and 80 years old. The samples were taken from the Predimed trial and the results revealed that people with the rs9939609 mutation had a higher body weight. They also confirmed that the Mediterranean diet offers protection against the adiposity associated with this mutation.

More information:
Ruiz JR, Labayen I, Ortega FB, Legry V, Moreno LA, Dallongeville J, Martínez-Gómez D, Bokor S, Manios Y, Ciarapica D, Gottrand F, De Henauw S, Molnár D, Sjöström M, Meirhaeghe A; HELENA Study Group. "Attenuation of the effect of the FTO rs9939609 polymorphism on total and central body fat by physical activity in adolescents: the HELENA study". Archives of Pediatrics & Adolescent Medicine; 164(4):328-33; April 2010.

C. Razquin, J. A. Martínez, M. A. Martínez-González, M. M. Bes-Rastrollo, J. Fernández-Crehuet y A. Marti. "A 3-year intervention with a Mediterranean diet modified the association between the rs9939609 gene variant in FTO and body weight changes". International Journal of Obesity 34(2):266-272, Feb 2010.

Related Stories

Recommended for you

Scientists produce human intestinal lining that re-creates living tissue inside organ-chip

February 16, 2018
Investigators have demonstrated how cells of a human intestinal lining created outside an individual's body mirror living tissue when placed inside microengineered Intestine-Chips, opening the door to personalized testing ...

Data wave hits health care

February 16, 2018
Technology used by Facebook, Google and Amazon to turn spoken language into text, recognize faces and target advertising could help doctors fight one of the deadliest infections in American hospitals.

Researcher explains how statistics, neuroscience improve anesthesiology

February 16, 2018
It's intuitive that anesthesia operates in the brain, but the standard protocol among anesthesiologists when monitoring and dosing patients during surgery is to rely on indirect signs of arousal like movement, and changes ...

Team reports progress in pursuit of sickle cell cure

February 16, 2018
Scientists have successfully used gene editing to repair 20 to 40 percent of stem and progenitor cells taken from the peripheral blood of patients with sickle cell disease, according to Rice University bioengineer Gang Bao.

Appetite-controlling molecule could prevent 'rebound' weight gain after dieting

February 15, 2018
Scientists have revealed how mice control their appetite when under stress such as cold temperatures and starvation, according to a new study by Monash University and St Vincent's Institute in Melbourne. The results shed ...

First study of radiation exposure in human gut Organ Chip device offers hope for better radioprotective drugs

February 14, 2018
Chernobyl. Three Mile Island. Fukushima. Accidents at nuclear power plants can potentially cause massive destruction and expose workers and civilians to dangerous levels of radiation that lead to cancerous genetic mutations ...

0 comments

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.