Exercise, Diet Beneficial Even for Those with Genetic Obesity Risk

One challenge for people who face genetic obesity risk often is the belief that exercise and diet may have no positive effect. This also can be a challenge when engaging obese employees in a workplace wellness program.

A new study shows that this belief simply may not be true — and one result may be new opportunities to engage these employees and encourage them to adopt healthier behaviors.

MedPage Today reports that “obese and overweight individuals with genetic risk factors for obesity respond as well as anybody else to diet and exercise, according to a meta-analysis of clinical trials evaluating weight-loss interventions.”

“In trial participants with the high-risk FTO (fat mass and obesity associated) genotype, changes in body-mass index (BMI), body weight, and waist circumference with interventions were not significantly different from participants with the low-risk genotype, reported John Mathers, PhD, of Newcastle University in the United Kingdom, and colleagues.”

Or, as the sub-headline states: “Meta-analysis: no poor candidates for lifestyle intervention.”

The study FTO genotype and weight loss: systematic review and meta-analysis of 9563 individual participant data from eight randomised controlled trials published in The BMJ Journal reports: “Our findings show that weight loss in those carrying the FTO minor allele is similar to the rest of the population after dietary, exercise, or drug based interventions”

MedPage quotes the authors: “We found that the FTO genotype had no detectable effect on weight loss in overweight and obese adults in response to intervention. Importantly, our findings show that the genetic predisposition to obesity associated with the FTO minor allele can be at least partly counteracted through dietary, exercise, or drug based weight loss interventions and that those carrying the minor allele respond equally well to such interventions.”

Alison Tedstone, PhD, of Public Health England, wrote an accompanying editorial in The BMJ Journal supporting the findings. MedPage reports Dr. Tedstone as writing that the meta-analysis “adds to the evidence suggesting that environmental factors might dominate over at least common obesity-liked genes.”

Tedstone continues: “If we are to turn back the tide of obesity, an understanding of how diet and lifestyle interact with the genome might help some people, particularly those with rare conditions that cause devastating levels of weight gain in early life. It is increasingly evident, however, that the idea that personalized interventions based on the genome will yield population benefit may not pay off, at least in the short term.”