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Biology and You

You and Your Genes

Is obesity inherited?

To date, researchers studying obesity genetics have identified more than thirty candidate genes on twelve chromosomes associated with body mass index—how much weight we carry around (for more about body mass index, see this chapter). For example, in 2007, the first “fat mass and obesity-associated” gene (or FTO) was found on chromosome 16; it’s estimated that people who have this gene variant carry a 20 to 30 percent higher risk of obesity. Another obesity-associated gene is located on chromosome 18. But as many researchers mention, even though these genes are found on a person, they only account for a small part of the gene-related susceptibility to obesity. According to Harvard University’s School of Public Health, recent research shows that genetic factors identified so far in obesity make only a small contribution to a person’s obesity risk— and that our genes are “not our destiny.” In other words, many people who have the so-called “obesity genes” do not necessarily become obese, or even overweight—and many times can counteract such potential overweight problems because of their genes with exercise and healthy eating habits.



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