Do genes condemn some children to obesity?

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According to a study carried out by the Technical University of Munich, environmental, social and behavioral factors make a greater difference than genes.

Childhood obesity is a huge challenge around the world. In Germany, researchers have studied the impact of genes on the development of obesity. According to their findings, "obesity genes" play a minor role in the success of weight loss interventions, while environmental, social and behavioral factors make a bigger difference.

In fact, the latter are much more important to consider in obesity treatment strategies in children, the researchers suggested. "Distinguishing between people who are more or less likely to respond to obesity treatment based on their genetic predisposition will not necessarily lead to better treatment success," said study author Melanie Heitkamp, a researcher in the department of prevention, rehabilitation and medicine. college sports. "Even people with risk variants of genes related to obesity will benefit from a healthy lifestyle, including a calorie-balanced diet and regular physical activity."

More than 900 genetic variants

The study included more than 1,400 young people between the ages of 6 and 19, who were overweight or obese. All were enrolled in a four- to six-week program that included daily physical activity, a low-calorie diet, and behavioral therapy. The researchers also studied the genes of nearly 1,200 participants. The authors report that some people suffered from a rare form of obesity caused by monogenic abnormalities, but that in most people no gene could be identified as the cause. The complex interplay between genetics and an unhealthy lifestyle contributes to obesity, say the authors. Studies have identified more than 900 genetic variants associated with obesity.

"The most significant finding is that known genetic variants linked to obesity appear to play only a minor role in short-term weight loss in overweight and obese children," the researcher explained.

The scientists were surprised to discover that three of the five statistically significant genetic variants were associated with greater weight loss during the study intervention. This meant that the carriers of the most dangerous genes lost more weight than expected with these lifestyle changes. The results were published online in JAMA Pediatrics.

Looking ahead, further research is needed to determine whether other genes unrelated to obesity can also affect weight loss.

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