20 October 18
Is your risk of obesity genetic?
There's a ton of factors that come into play when it comes to obesity and weight gain.
In today’s society, there’s an evident rise in the consumption of processed and energy-dense foods and a noticeable prevalence of sedentary lifestyles. These factors contribute to the imbalance between the calories that we consume and the calories we exhaust, eventually leading to obesity and being overweight.
However, as humans, we are a product of our environment, lifestyle, and of course, genetics. Although our weight is greatly affected by our food preferences and exercise levels, genetics still plays a role when it comes to our risk of obesity.
Below are a few examples:
The Melanocortin-4 receptor gene (MC4R) in particular, is one of the genes responsible for the regulation of your desire to eat and your sensation of fullness. People with a common variant of the MC4R gene that causes decreased MC4R protein level in the brain’s hypothalamus are more inclined to eating frequently, going for fatty food, and consuming more abundant portions of food.
A few common variants in the fat mass–and obesity-associated (FTO) gene can also be linked to higher risk of obesity. This gene is known for controlling feeding behaviour and energy expenditure. People with risk variants in this gene have a tendency to eat bigger portions and more frequently due to lack of satiety.
There are certain genetic conditions that can also be correlated to obesity. One of them is the Prader-Willi syndrome that leads to chronic overeating or hyperphagia among affected individuals. Another one is the Bardet-Biedl syndrome that is characterized by abnormal weight gain
Your BMI Doesn’t Tell The full Story
Obesity in adults is often measured by the body mass index or BMI. This is calculated by dividing the weight (kilograms) by the square of the height (meters) or simply kg/m².
If your BMI is higher than or equal to 25, you are considered to be overweight; and if it is greater than or equal to 30, then you are considered to be obese.
The BMI formula can be used as a rough guide to see if you have a weight problem, however, it’s not always accurate.
The problem with BMI is that it is not able to determine the source of your weight. There’s no way of determining if all that extra weight comes from fat or from muscle. Good examples for this are bodybuilders who might be classified as overweight or obese despite having little body fat and a ton of lean muscle..
Another example is seniors who do not have much muscle mass left but are full of body fat and yet still have a normal BMI.
Check your waist size
Knowing your waist size is a better step towards finding out if your weight is indeed something to be worried about. A waist size larger than 35-inches for woman or larger than 40 inches for men could indicate a weight problem even if your BMI says otherwise.
Obesity, if not prevented, is a major risk factor for several health issues such as stroke and heart disease, diabetes, osteoarthritis and other musculoskeletal disorders, cancer in the ovaries, breast, prostate, kidney, and many others.
Understanding your DNA is the most ideal and efficient way to finding out the root cause of obesity and coming up with actionable steps to lower your risk of obesity-related diseases.