McMaster University

McMaster University

Faculty of
Health Sciences

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

Published: January 4, 2016
Hudson Reddon and David Meyre
From left: Hudson Reddon, study's first author and a PhD student, and David Meyre, associate professor, Department of Clinical Epidemiology and Biostatistics

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

In a paper published today by the journal Scientific Reports, David Meyre and his team have shown that a physically active lifestyle can substantially decrease the genetic effect of the major obesity gene FTO on body weight in a multiethnic population.

"This provides a message of hope for people with obesity predisposing genes that they can do something about it. Our body weight destiny is not only written in our genetic blueprint," said Meyre, an associate professor of clinical epidemiology and biostatistics for McMaster's Michael G. DeGroote School of Medicine.

His team looked at data from up to 17,400 people from six ethnic groups (South Asian, East Asian, European, African, Latin American, Native North American) who were recruited from 17 countries and followed for more than three years.

"To strengthen the confidence in our results, we used both basic and precise (metabolic equivalent score) measures of physical activity, and we compared the traditional body mass index to the recently developed body adiposity index," said Hudson Reddon, the study's first author and a PhD student in the Department of Clinical Epidemiology and Biostatistics.

They analysed the impact of 14 obesity predisposing genes and found that physical activity can blunt the genetic effect of FTO, the major contributor to common obesity, by up to 75 per cent.

"These promising results encourage us to investigate how additional lifestyle factors, such as diet, stress and sleep patterns, may impact the genetic predisposition to obesity," said Meyre.

The study was performed in collaboration with the Population Health Research Institute of McMaster University and Hamilton Health Sciences, and was funded by the Canadian Institutes of Health Research and Heart and Stroke Foundation of Canada.

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