(NaturalNews) If you are overweight, it can be pretty discouraging to know you come from a fat family -- your parents, siblings and even cousins and grandparents may mostly be overweight, too. It can make you think you are destined to be fat due to your ancestry. And in fact, for some people, there is a genetic predisposition to obesity. But there's new hope you can conquer this inherited fat factor.
Research headed by Dr. Ruth Loos from the Medical Research Council Epidemiology Unit in Cambridge in the United Kingdom concluded that the genetic predisposition to obesity can be reduced by an average of almost half -- not through drugs or starvation, but by simply increasing regular physical activity.
The study, which was just published in PLoS Medicine, used data on 20,430 people living in Norwich, UK, to investigate 12 different genetic variants which are known to increase the risk of being overweight. Dr. Loos and her research team tested how many of these variants each of the study participants had inherited from either their mother or father. Most of the research subjects had inherited between 10 and 13 variants, some had only 6 or less, but others had inherited more than 17 variants.
Then, by computing the number of variants inherited into a genetic predisposition score, the researchers assessed the research subjects' overall genetic susceptibility to obesity. The scientists also documented the occupational and leisure time physical activities of each individual by using a validated self-administered questionnaire. Next, the research team investigated whether a higher genetic predisposition score was associated with a higher body mass index (BMI), which indicated obesity. They also looked to see if a physically active lifestyle could change the genetic influence on BMI and tendency to be overweight.
The results showed that every additional genetic variant in the score was associated with a significant increase in BMI. The size of this effect was clearly more pronounced in the people who tended to be couch potatoes. Overall, the odds for obesity plunged dramatically -- by 40 percent --- in people who were physically active, despite their having a high risk for being overweight due to their "fat genes".
In a statement to the media, the scientists said their findings challenge the idea a genetic predisposition means people are destined to be fat. "Our findings further emphasize the importance of physical activity in the prevention of obesity," they concluded.
In other breaking obesity research from Europe, Anja Rosenow, Ph.D., and colleagues at Maastricht University in the Netherlands, have come up with new evidence that shows how extra weight may damage health. The scientists have found "spare tires" and lower belly pooches are not just storage sites for surplus calories -- instead, this fat tissue acts as an active organ that sends chemical signals to other parts of the body. These chemical messengers could increase the risk of heart attacks, cancer, and other diseases. The Maastricht researchers reported discovering 20 new hormones and other substances not previously known that are secreted into the blood by human fat cells. The study was just published in the Journal of Proteome Research.