Can Exercise Overcome Genetics?

By Caroline – April 1, 2011

New research indicates that exercise can play an integral role in fighting a genetic predisposition for obesity.

Dr. Soren Snitker, of the University of Maryland, and Evadnie Rampersaud, his post doctoral fellow, led a study of 704 Amish men and women. Though the Amish are a genetically homogeneous group, their overall genetic diversity reflects that of the general Caucasian population.

In previous studies, the FTO gene, or “fat gene”, has been connected with obesity and high body mass index. Those with one or two copies of the “heavy” variant of the FTO gene are much more likely to be obese, and are generally heavier than those without the gene. However, in the study, researchers discovered participants who had two copies of the “heavy” FTO variant that still were within normal BMI ranges despite their genetic predisposition. These individuals were also the most physically active of the study.

While the exact degree to which physical activity can influence the expression and effects of the FTO gene has not been determined, it is apparent that genes are not a clear determining factor when it comes to weight. Our lifestyle choices – exercise and diet – can affect gene expression. Lifestyle choices are powerful.


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