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

August 31, 2010

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

Dog ownership linked to lower mortality

November 17, 2017
A team of Swedish scientists have used national registries of more than 3.4 million Swedes aged 40 to 80 to study the association between dog ownership and cardiovascular health. Their study shows that dog owners had a lower ...

New shoe makes running 4 percent easier, 2-hour marathon possible, study shows

November 17, 2017
Eleven days after Boulder-born Shalane Flanagan won the New York City Marathon in new state-of-the-art racing flats known as "4%s," University of Colorado Boulder researchers have published the study that inspired the shoes' ...

Vaping while pregnant could cause craniofacial birth defects, study shows

November 16, 2017
Using e-cigarettes during pregnancy could cause birth defects of the oral cavity and face, according to a recent Virginia Commonwealth University study.

Study: For older women, every movement matters

November 16, 2017
Folding your laundry or doing the dishes might not be the most enjoyable parts of your day. But simple activities like these may help prolong your life, according to the findings of a new study in older women led by the University ...

When vegetables are closer in price to chips, people eat healthier, study finds

November 16, 2017
When healthier food, like vegetables and dairy products, is pricier compared to unhealthy items, like salty snacks and sugary sweets, Americans are significantly less likely to have a high-quality diet, a new Drexel University ...

Children's exposure to secondhand smoke may be vastly underestimated by parents

November 15, 2017
Four out of 10 children in the US are exposed to secondhand smoke, according to the American Heart Association. A new Tel Aviv University study suggests that parents who smoke mistakenly rely on their own physical senses ...

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.