Physical activity can reduce the genetic predisposition to obesity by 40 percent

August 31, 2010, Public Library of Science

Although the whole population can benefit from a physically active lifestyle, in part through reduced obesity risk, a new study shows that individuals with a genetic predisposition to obesity can benefit even more. The research, carried out by Dr. Ruth Loos from the Medical Research Council Epidemiology Unit in Cambridge, United Kingdom, and colleagues, published in this week's PLoS Medicine suggests that the genetic predisposition to obesity can be reduced by an average of 40% through increased physical activity.

The authors used a cohort study of 20,430 people living in Norwich, UK and examined 12 different genetic variants which are known to increase the risk of obesity. The researchers tested how many of these variants each study participants had inherited from either parent. They then assessed the overall to obesity by summing the number of variants inherited into a 'genetic predisposition score'. Most individuals inherited between 10 and 13 variants, but some had inherited more than 17 variants, while others fewer than 6.

In addition the researchers assessed occupational and leisure-time physical activities in each individual by using a validated self-administered questionnaire. The researchers then used modeling techniques to examine whether a higher 'genetic predisposition score' was associated with a higher (BMI)/obesity risk and, most importantly, they also tested whether a physically active lifestyle could attenuate the on BMI and obesity risk.

The researchers found that each additional genetic variant in the score was associated with an increase in BMI equivalent to 445g in body weight for a person 1.70 m tall and that the size of this effect was greater in inactive people than in active people. In individuals who had a physically active lifestyle, this increase was only 379 g/variant, or 36% lower than in physically inactive individuals in whom the increase was 592 g/variant. Furthermore, in the total sample each additional obesity-susceptibility variant increased the odds of obesity by 1.1-fold. However, the increased odds per variant for obesity risk were 40% lower in physically active individuals (1.095 odds/variant) compared to physically inactive individuals (1.16 odds/variant).

These findings challenge deterministic views of the to obesity that are often held by the public, as they suggest that even people at greater genetic risk of obesity can benefit from adopting a healthy lifestyle.

The authors say: "Our findings further emphasize the importance of in the prevention of obesity."

More information: Li S, Zhao JH, Luan J, Ekelund U, Luben RN, et al. (2010) Physical Activity Attenuates the Genetic Predisposition to Obesity in 20,000 Men and Women from EPIC-Norfolk Prospective Population Study. PLoS Med 7(8): e1000332. doi:10.1371/journal.pmed.1000332

Related Stories

Recommended for you

For heavy lifting, use exoskeletons with caution

April 20, 2018
You can wear an exoskeleton, but it won't turn you into a superhero.

New research suggests possible link between sudden infant death syndrome and air pollution

April 20, 2018
A study led by the University of Birmingham suggests a possible association between exposure to certain pollutants and an increased risk of so-called 'cot death'.

Male contraceptive compound stops sperm without affecting hormones

April 20, 2018
A new study published today in the journal PLOS ONE details how a compound called EP055 binds to sperm proteins to significantly slow the overall mobility of the sperm without affecting hormones, making EP055 a potential ...

A dose of empathy may support patients in pain

April 20, 2018
Research published in the Journal of the Royal Society of Medicine suggests that empathic, positive messages from doctors may be of small benefit to patients suffering from pain, and improve their satisfaction about the care ...

New device to help patients with rare disease access life-saving treatment

April 19, 2018
Patients with a rare medical condition can receive life-saving treatment at the touch of a button thanks to a new device developed by scientists.

Low total testosterone in men widespread, linked to chronic disease

April 19, 2018
A male's total testosterone level may be linked to more than just sexual health and muscle mass preservation, a new study finds. Low amounts of the hormone could also be associated with chronic disease, even among men 40 ...

1 comment

Adjust slider to filter visible comments by rank

Display comments: newest first

bottomlesssoul
not rated yet Aug 31, 2010
This is great. It's one of the first multi-variable genetic study that begins to discuss individual contributions to the whole.

A study size of > 20,000 shows just how difficult this problem is.

Hopefully one day my cell phone will carry my genetic record and medical history and just tell me to jog 4 kilometers today.

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.