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Effect of Genes on Body Weight and Body Composition
How Body Weight is Affected by Genetics
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Genetic Causes of Overweight & Obesity

Body Weight and Genes

Are You Overweight Because of Your Genes?

The relationship between genes and body weight is the subject of much ongoing research. We already know that genetic factors affect weight in a variety of ways and experts believe that obesity (very overweight) may be due to a faulty gene.

WHO Report on Obesity

The World Health Organization's report on Obesity (2000) concluded that: "while it is possible that single or multiple gene effects may cause overweight and obesity directly, and indeed do so in some individuals, this does not appear to be the case in the majority of people." This statement on the gene/weight issue only serves to highlight the importance that genetic influences have on weight and shape.

How Body Weight is Affected by Our Genes

Although experts are unsure as to how much our weight is influenced by our genes, several associations between weight and hereditary factors have been identified. For example:

  • Intra-abdominal fat (fat around abdomen) appears to have a genetic link in the majority of cases.
  • As many as 25-40 percent of cases of obesity may be due to genetic influence.
  • Genes may affect the type of Basal Metabolic Rate we have. A lower-than-average BMR will lead to a tendency to gain weight.
  • Appetite can be affected by hereditary factors.
  • Genes can affect the amount of fat and muscle in our body. This fat-muscle ratio has a direct effect on our BMR and thus on our weight.
  • Our Thermogenesis - the amount of energy we need to metabolise food - may be affected by our genes. This, too, is likely to affect our weight.

Weight and Genes - A Caution

Although genes do have a significant influence on body weight, human genes do not change in the space of a few decades! Therefore the huge rise in obesity among all population groups, especially in America, cannot be accounted for by genetic influence or interference. Modern day levels of overweight and obesity are due to environmental factors, in particular the huge number of calorie-dense foods, large serving sizes and lack of exercise.


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