Some people are genetically predisposed to obesity

Obesity: When genes make you fat

Status: 08/15/2019 11:19 a.m. | archive
The genome makes up to five points in the body mass index.

Getting obese or staying slim depends on how much you eat and exercise. But how difficult it is to maintain the weight is also determined by the genes. They provide the blueprints for all substances in our body and are involved in the production of hormones and proteins that determine our eating behavior and our metabolism.

Leptin and MC4R determine the feeling of satiety

Is the blueprint of the satiety hormone Leptin or the leptin receptor (LEPR) is defective, there is no feeling of satiety and the person concerned is constantly at risk of overeating.

That too Melanocortin-4 receptor gene (MC4R) influences appetite: Certain variants of this gene mean that their carriers never think about food, therefore eat little and stay thin. However, other variants mean that the desire to eat is omnipresent. The carriers of these gene variants never feel full and therefore often eat far too much.

FTO regulates fat metabolism

The best-known gene that influences fat metabolism is called FTO ("Fat mass and obesity-associated gene"). It regulates whether we store or burn fat. Humans have three types of fat cells: White fat cells store fat while brown fat cells Burn fat and release heat in the process. Adults have very few brown fat cells.

The third type is decisive: the beige fat cells. They can both burn fat and store it. In people with certain variants of the FTO gene, the beige fat cells can only store fat and not burn it - the result is obesity.

Fat distribution depends on the genes

Scientists have already identified more than 40 gene segments that determine how fat is distributed in the body. So there is a genetic predisposition to being overweight. In total, the researchers already know 2.1 million gene variants in around 100 sections of the genome that have an influence on weight.

Together, the gene variations can make up to five points in the body mass index (BMI) - and that often means the difference between people of normal weight, overweight and obese. On the scales, however, even the strongest genes only account for up to two kilograms.

Change in behavior affects genes

The influence of hereditary factors creates a different starting position. However, our behavior decides whether the genes are switched on or off: so-called epigenetic mechanisms cause, for example, a gene that has been silenced by a high-calorie diet is activated by intermittent fasting, low-calorie diet or exercise, so that the fat metabolism or the sugar metabolism suddenly works better again and supports weight loss.

Tailored therapy is the goal

The reasons for being overweight vary from person to person. And the ideal strategy for losing weight is just as different. Obesity centers rely on three building blocks in the fight against excessive weight:

  • Move
  • Nutritional advice
  • bariatric surgery, for example gastric bypass

Which method is most effective individually depends largely on the genes of the person affected.

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Experts on the subject

Prof. Dr. Peter Kovacs, IFB Professorship for Obesity and Diabetes Genetics
IFB Obesity Disorders
Medical research center of the University Medical Center Leipzig
Liebigstrasse 21
04103 Leipzig

Prof. Dr. Matthias Bl├╝her, head of the obesity outpatient clinic for adults
Endocrinology and Nephrology Clinic and Polyclinic
Medical research center of the University Medical Center Leipzig
Liebigstrasse 21
04103 Leipzig
(0341) 97-133 20

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Visit | 08/13/2019 | 8:15 pm