We all know that our genetics play a HUGE role in predisposing us to all sorts of things, good and bad. And, even though DNA is only one piece of the puzzle — there's so much we can do to take control of our health on a daily basis — it's important to acknowledge the part it plays in how we feel.
Enter, one of the more hot-button parts of this conversation: the so-called "obesity gene," also known as the FTO gene. If you have it, that doesn't mean you'll necessarily have trouble with your weight, but it does help to indicate the risk of obesity. Not at all uncommon — approximately 37% of Caucasians have at least one copy of the high-risk version of the FTO gene, and about 16% of folks carry two copies of the high-risk genes, increasing their lifetime risk of obesity to about 20% above individuals who don't carry this gene at all.
Now, what is it about this particular gene that increases your prospects of weight gain? No one is exactly sure, but the most recent science says that it impacts us hormonally (particularly affecting the hormone ghrelin, which tells our brains when to be hungry).
In people with the high-risk version of this gene, their hunger hormone levels don't drop as steeply after eating a meal, leaving them feeling hungry, even though they've just eaten. It's easy to see how this could make weight maintenance a difficult task.
Although there's no way to test yourself for this gene yet, researchers have the ability to test for it. And, in a recent study, they did just that. They wondered if after being told they tested positive for it, people would feel more out of control and less likely to pursue weight loss. Turns out, no. If fact, the exact opposite was true. Knowledge of the gene didn't discourage people in the study — it helped them understand their bodies better and made them feel more empowered. Even though possessing the gene meant that a weight-loss journey might be more difficult for them than for others, those with the gene said knowing about itmade them feel less stressed out.
Any health journey has multiple layers, all of which are important. Perhaps genetic information is just one more factor — one that might be especially helpful in the health care of the future. But the question remains: Would you want to know if you tested positive for the obesity gene? How would it change the way you treat your body, and your approach to healthy living? (U.S. News & World Report)