It’s hard to lose weight when you’re fighting your genes.
For many people, weight loss is a constant battle. They can see that diets work for other people, but not for them. Working out at the gym does nothing to shift the kilos. Sound familiar? If this is you, you may have been fighting a much harder battle than most people – one against your own DNA.
There are a number of gene variations, or spelling mistakes that can occur in what I the ‘fat genes’ and contribute to weight loss not happening.
Weight management is a complicated process and our genes interacting with each other, what we eat, and how much we exercise to create our body shape. There are several ‘fat genes’ that we look at closely when designing a targeted diet for clients.
But one gene stands out beyond all the others in the genetics of weight - the FTO gene, lovingly called ‘The fat gene’. Known as the alpha-ketoglutarate-dependent dioxygenase, FTO is an enzyme that in humans is encoded by the FTO gene located on chromosome 16. As one homolog in the AlkB family proteins, it is the first mRNA demethylase that has been identified. The FTO gene strongly predicts your BMI, and can easily tip the balance towards obesity and type 2 diabetes.
How does it do this?
People with FTO variants have been found to have changes to their levels of the hormone ghrelin. This hormone regulates appetite, incentive motivation and reward processing.
Sound like a recipe for comfort eating? Oh yeah!
FTO has also been associated with poor food choices – higher intake of high-fat foods, a drive towards higher calorie foods, refined foods and sugar. People who are red (+/+, or homozygous for the variant) in the FTO gene carry, on average, an extra 3 kg than those without the variant.
Signs that you may be fighting FTO is a classic picture of putting weight on around puberty and struggling with diets and weight loss ever since.
So if you’re fighting FTO, what can you do?
Well, there’s no getting around it. FTO is going to make losing weight harder.
But it’s not impossible, you just need to know that it’s not going to be as easy a time as some other people have. But then if you battle FTO, you probably already knew that.
Some strategies that can help weight loss & the fat gene include:
1. Limit saturated fats – FTO likes to convert fats in your diet into fat on your body.
2. Go Mediterranean – Research has shown that the Mediterranean diet, used long term, can counteract the association between FTO and obesity. Particularly, use foods that help curb appetite, such as vegetables, fruits and whole grains
3. Resistance exercise – The effects of FTO are largely mitigated by exercise, and resistance exercise particularly.
4. Mindful eating – this is your secret weapon. When you’re aware of the amount and type of food on your plate, you can make different choices. By taking more time eating and enjoying flavours, meal times can become more satisfying, curbing your need to top up with ‘feel good’ foods such as sweets and salty fatty foods.
Interested in finding out if FTO is holding you back?
Our Practitioners discussing FTO and Weight Loss in upcoming workshops:
Our qualified genetic counsellor, Elvira can show you your own blueprint for health through a personalised genetic profile, and Nutritionist Linda will develop a targeted nutrition and lifestyle plan designed specifically to suit your DNA, your body and your lifestyle.