Physical activity helps to counteract weight gain from obesity-causing gene variant

April 27, 2017, Public Library of Science
Physical activity can reduce the weight-gaining effects of the genetic variant that carries the greatest risk of obesity. Credit: Ludo Rouchy, Flickr, CC BY

Physical activity can reduce the weight-gaining effects of the genetic variant that carries the greatest risk of obesity, report Mariaelisa Graff of the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, Tuomas Kilpeläinen of University of Copenhagen and colleagues April 27th, 2017 in PLOS Genetics.

With people consuming more calories and being less physically active, the world has witnessed an epidemic, but not everyone is gaining weight. Previous studies suggest that a person's susceptibility to becoming obese can be reduced by . To see how physical activity and genetic variants related to obesity interact to affect weight gain, Graff and colleagues performed genome-wide interaction meta-analyses using more than 200,000 individuals. They categorized individuals as active or inactive, screened them for about 2.5 million genetic variants and correlated that data with physical indicators of obesity, including , waist circumference and waist-to-hip ratio. The study finds that physical activity can reduce the weight-gaining effects of the strongest known genetic risk factor for obesity, the FTO gene, by about 30%. Accounting for physical activity also enabled the researchers to identify 11 novel genetic variants linked to obesity, suggesting that physical activity and other relevant environmental factors should be considered when looking for novel .

The meta-analyses confirm previous findings that physical activity reduces the effect of the FTO gene, but the underlying cause of this interaction is still unknown. The scientists suspect that physical activity may affect other genes related to obesity, but to identify these smaller effects, researchers will require larger groups of subjects and highly precise measurements. From a practical standpoint, the findings suggest that physical activity is still vital, even when obesity appears to be predetermined in one's genes, and could be most beneficial for those who have the hardest time keeping weight off.

Mariaelisa Graff adds: "Moreover, our study revealed 11 completely new obesity genes, suggesting that in future studies, accounting for physical activity and other important lifestyle factors could boost the search new obesity genes. A weakness of our study was that the participants self-reported their physical activity habits rather than being surveyed objectively. To identify more genes whose effects are either dampened or amplified by physical activity, we need to carry out larger studies with more accurate measurement of physical levels."

Explore further: Physical activity may ward off heart damage

More information: Graff M, Scott RA, Justice AE, Young KL, Feitosa MF, Barata L, et al. (2017) Genome-wide physical activity interactions in adiposity - A meta-analysis of 200,452 adults. PLoS Genet 13(4): e1006528. DOI: 10.1371/journal.pgen.1006528

Related Stories

Physical activity may ward off heart damage

April 24, 2017
Physical activity can lower the risk of heart damage in middle-aged and older adults and reduce the levels of heart damage in people who are obese, according to research published today in JACC: Heart Failure.

FTO gene not an obesity life sentence: study

September 21, 2016
People who carry a variant in the so-called obesity gene, FTO, react just as well to diet and exercise as those without it, a research paper said Wednesday.

Benefits of physical activity may outweigh impact of obesity on cardiovascular disease

March 1, 2017
The benefits of physical activity may outweigh the impact of overweight and obesity on cardiovascular disease in middle-aged and elderly people, according to research published today in the European Journal of Preventive ...

Getting a bad night's sleep could be increasing some people's likelihood of becoming obese

March 2, 2017
According to a study led by the University of Glasgow, and published today in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition (AJCN), abnormal sleeping habits increase the risk of obesity for those who are genetically predisposed ...

New Year's resolutions for 2016: Fight your obesity genes with exercise

January 4, 2016
People from around the world can use a physically active lifestyle to blunt the effect of inherited obesity genes, McMaster University researchers have found.

Recommended for you

Mutations, CRISPR, and the biology behind movement disorders

November 12, 2018
Scientists at the RIKEN Center for Brain Science (CBS) in Japan have discovered how mutations related to a group of movement disorders produce their effects. Published in Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, the ...

Decrease in specific gene 'silencing' molecules linked with pediatric brain tumors

November 12, 2018
Experimenting with lab-grown brain cancer cells, Johns Hopkins Medicine researchers have added to evidence that a shortage of specific tiny molecules that silence certain genes is linked to the development and growth of pediatric ...

Defective DNA damage repair leads to chaos in the genome

November 12, 2018
Scientists at the German Cancer Research Center (Deutsches Krebsforschungszentrum, DKFZ) have now found a cause for frequent catastrophic events in the genetic material of cancer cells that have only been known for a few ...

Recessive genes explain only small fraction of undiagnosed developmental disorders

November 8, 2018
The Deciphering Developmental Disorders study has discovered that only a small fraction of rare, undiagnosed developmental disorders in the British Isles are caused by recessive genes. The study by researchers from the Wellcome ...

A look at how colds and chronic disease affect DNA expression

November 8, 2018
We're all born with a DNA sequence that encodes (in the form of genes) the very traits that make us, us—eye color, height, and even personality. We think of those genes as unchanging, but in reality, the way they are expressed, ...

Mutant protein tackles DNA guardian to promote cancer development

November 7, 2018
Melbourne scientists have discovered how tumour development is driven by mutations in the most important gene in preventing cancer, p53.

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.