Some people find it difficult to lose weight, while there are those who never seem to gain a pound no matter how much they eat. It almost doesn’t seem fair, but in the largest study of its kind, researchers from The University of Cambridge found that genetics may be in play when it comes to some slim people’s advantage.
To understand why some people find it easier to maintain their thinness than others, a team of researchers recruited 1,622 thin volunteers, 1,985 severely obese volunteers, and 10,433 normal weight controls. In studying their genes, the researchers found genetic variants that are already identified to play a role in obesity, but they also found new genetic regions that play a role in severe obesity, and some that play a role in thinness.
By calculating the participants’ genetic risk scores, the researchers found that those who were obese had higher risks scores than those with normal weight. Furthermore, those who were thin were found to have lower genetic risk scores, meaning they have less of the genetic variants that are known to influence an individual’s chances of being overweight. In fact, 74 percent of the thin people had a family history of being thin and healthy.
Simply put, the thin people had genes keeping them slim while also having less of the genes linked to being overweight.
“This research shows for the first time that healthy thin people are generally thin because they have a lower burden of genes that increase a person’s chances of being overweight and not because they are morally superior, as some people like to suggest,” said study lead Professor Sadaf Farooqi, also noting that their research proves how much more complex weight management is than people might think.
Obesity continues to be a major problem, especially since it tends to lead to other serious health concerns such as heart disease and diabetes. In fact, even children are not spared from the problem of obesity. While issues such as easier access to unhealthy food and beverages, as well as people's sedentary lifestyles do contribute to the problem, the researchers show that weight maintenance is not just a simple matter of diet.
The study is published in PLOS Genetics.