Debunked: The myth that your health is dictated by your genes is destroyed; study finds lifestyle choices determine health
06/12/2019 // Cassie B. // Views

If everyone in your family is obese, you might think that your fate is sealed and that you simply have “fat genes” in your DNA that can’t be overcome. While many conditions do carry a genetic component, a recent study illustrates just how greatly your lifestyle choices can influence your genetic risk.

A study published in PLOS Genetics that involved more than 362,000 middle-aged Brits found that some lifestyle and environmental factors can actually outweigh and even change the influence of genes when it comes to a person’s risk for obesity.

There were a few specific ways that this worked. For example, they found that a person’s genetic risk for obesity was actually more influential if they did not exercise frequently. Alcohol was another factor; their genetic risk for obesity ended up being more influential if they drank alcohol on a frequent basis, such as every day. In addition, socioeconomic status comes into play; people’s genetic obesity risk had a smaller influence if they found themselves higher up the socioeconomic scale.

The study’s authors say that many lifestyle factors can ultimately modify the effect of genetics on BMI, with some groups of people noting more than double the effects of their genetic score. This clearly illustrates that our lifestyle and environment interact with our genes in a big way – which means we have a lot more power over our weight than we might believe.

Your choices are more powerful than you think

If you come from a family with a genetic predisposition toward obesity, you might be facing a tougher battle than those who don’t, but your weight is still very much under your control. The same might also be said for a genetic risk of cancer, dementia or heart disease. There may be factors you can’t control, but that should only serve as an even greater motivation to control the ones you can – and many of the factors you can control can serve to reduce your risk of a number of illnesses at once.


There is a pretty common theme when it comes to preventing a whole host of health ailments, whether it’s obesity, heart disease, cancer or even Alzheimer’s. Exercise is a big one, although that doesn’t mean you need to go to the gym every day to get this aspect right. Walking half an hour a day can do the trick, but this has to be paired with avoiding too much sedentary behavior.

Diet is another big area when it comes to weight and health. You need to ensure you’re consuming plenty of organic vegetables and fruits, along with appropriate amounts of healthy fats like those found in olive oil, avocados or nuts, and plenty of omega 3s.

A well-rounded diet will give you the protein and fiber you need to feel full as well as all the vitamins and minerals that keep your body running smoothly. Get a blood test to check for common deficiencies, such as vitamin D, and adjust your diet to correct any that you find. You might even consider supplements if your levels are too low. It’s also important to quit smoking if you haven’t already done so and keep your alcohol intake under control.

Your actions can control how your genes behave, so ensure you make wise choices when it comes to your diet and lifestyle every day to fight obesity and other illnesses – no matter how much you might think the genetic odds are stacked against you.

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