April 26, 2019

Worried about body fat? Check for these DNA elements

Americans are by far the fattest people in the world -- not an insult; just a fact. Some DNA variants drive fat accumulation in the body.
Tomohiro Takano

Americans are fat... Does it have anything to do with DNA?

Americans are by far one of the fattest populations in the entire world. This is not an insult, it is simply a fact. The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services has estimated that over 35% of American adults are obesely overweight. More than this, the rate is steadily increasing by about 5% every 10 years.

The scary part about this public health crisis is that obesity increases your chances for almost every chronic disease. It increases your chances of heart disease, type 2 diabetes, certain cancers, and ruins your joint and bone health. Americans are currently battling this epidemic with unhealthy fad diets, weight loss pills, and other untested methods. However, did you know that your DNA might contribute to your body weight?

Well, it does. This article will discuss the many ways that DNA variants can influence your body mass index (BMI), body fat percentage, and other aspects related to your overall weight and health. While a healthy diet and exercise will always be your best tools for losing weight, you should also know what you are up against. Certain genetic variants can contribute significantly to your ability to lose weight and keep it off. Keep reading to find out more!

Why the Obsession with Body Fat?

In the last decade, the epidemic of body weight has seized the American public. Study after study has shown that a high BMI affects all aspects of health, from how easily you can breathe, to how your heart functions, to how good your circulation is.

Further, most studies show that body fat is never a good thing. While a little fat is necessary, being even slightly overweight increases your risk for almost all chronic diseases and puts unnecessary strain on your body. Excessive body weight leads to heart disease, type 2 diabetes, and high blood pressure.  

But, study after study has also shown that dieting alone is not sufficient to permanently decrease your body weight. You need to view your weight loss as an entire lifestyle change if you want it to stick, and it must include a good exercise routine. Understanding what role your DNA plays can help you achieve this goal, as you will understand how your body is fighting against the process of weight loss. Specifically, several genetic variants have been shown to contribute significantly to the accumulation and storage of fat within the body.

The Role of Body Fat

If you think about the evolution of the human species, body fat has historically been a good thing. Fat is a substance created by animals to store energy for times when food is hard to come by. Our ancestors, before the dawn of agriculture and fire, needed to have body fat for times when there was no available food. However, with modern agriculture, supermarkets, and global food distribution chains, few people in America will ever find themselves without food.

Decadent foods don't bode well for our obesity rates...

But, our bodies don’t know that. They will try to store away every little bit of excess energy they get. In fact, part of your brain is responsible for your exostatic hunger. Exostatic hunger is your brain telling you to eat more, even if you just filled your stomach. The brain does this just in case there are leaner times in the future. This type of hunger is not necessary in the modern world, with our nearly unlimited food supply.

While a healthy diet and exercise can certainly decrease your body weight, certain genetic variants have been directly linked to increasing your hunger, regardless of whether you already ate. Further, other genetic variants are directly related to how your body stores fat leading to weight gain. Learning about which genetic variants you have can give you a leg up in starting a new, healthy lifestyle.

What DNA elements are associated with body fat?

Based on a new study of body fat involving 100,716 individuals, it was found that twelve genetic variants are associated with increased body fat percentage. This large-scale study found that DNA variants either:

  1. Affect the central nervous system by increasing your desire to eat when you aren’t hungry, or
  2. They affect the way that fat is deposited within your body.

Several of the genetic variants cause your exostatic hunger to increase. For instance, the FTO gene is thought to increase hunger through the central nervous system. While this would have been helpful when we were still cavemen, it is something you will need to ignore today. Knowing you have these genetic markers can be enormously helpful in recognizing when you are actually hungry, and avoiding times when your brain is simply telling you to eat more.

Further, since your DNA is the blueprint for all parts of your body, it also directs how fat cells are created and maintained within your body. Several genetic variants have been associated with increased BMI, and scientists know these portions of the genome aid in the creation and storage of fat. If you're someone who has these markers, you can easily cut the fat out of your diet. Without a fat source, your cells will have a much harder time creating and storing fat.

But, DNA testing is just the first step. Once you learn how your body is trying to make you fat, you still need to work on lifestyle changes which will help you avoid certain foods, ignore your hunger cravings, and find a physical activity which will help you work off the fat you have already built up.

Looking ahead

The genomics of body fat percentage, although has been in the field of medical science for years, is still considered in its infancy. Scientists have correlated several important genes with body weight, BMI, and body fat percentage, but more work needs to be done. Scientists still do not understand exactly why obesity leads to heart disease, type 2 diabetes, and many other conditions. Further, while the individual genetic variants identified have been correlated to obesity, heart disease, type 2 diabetes, and chronic disease, the exact mechanism is not well understood.

Future studies need to focus on the exact mechanisms behind these changes, and how people can learn to ignore their exostatic hunger. Further, studies need to be done on how the DNA actually increases the production and storage of fat. Once these studies are completed, a much clearer picture of BMI and DNA will be created.

Find out what your DNA says

Genomelink currently offers an analysis of which genetic variants you carry related to body fat. Using these tools, you can find out if you are more likely to be hungry, more likely to store body fat, or both!

Your DNA helps determine how your body reacts to the food you eat. Further, DNA is involved with how your brain makes you feel hungrier than you actually are. Knowing this information can help you make a complete and healthy weight loss plan. Check Genomelink now to learn more about your genetic predisposition for body fat percentage!

Body Fat Percentage sample report on Genomelink

Tomohiro Takano
Tomohiro Takano
Co-Founder and CEO