3 Lifestyle Changes That Affect Genes and Help You with Weight Loss

If you often feel that eating less, eating healthy and working out is not enough to lose weight, you are not alone. If you think that it might be because you have bad genes, you’re also not alone, and the science is there to back it up. [1]

In essence, some people have a harder time losing weight than others, and that mostly comes from the variations of specific genes that they possess.

At the moment scientists know over 70 gene alterations which link to obesity. Most of them influence how your body stores fat from food or how it breaks it down, and some deal with the signals that tell you that you’re no longer hungry. These gene variations are called polymorphisms.

With such a strong influence on your body, you can often find people who share the same diet, and yet one is losing weight much slower than the other.

Even though it might seem that polymorphisms cannot be affected because it’s in our genetic makeup, the truth is that you definitely can change these genes expression and subsequently influence your weight. Specific lifestyle practices can indeed affect your genes because epigenetics plays a significant role in which genes turn on and are expressed and which are not.

FTO Gene and Physical Activity

Probably the most studied of all obesity genes is FTO or the Fatso gene. [2] This gene affects our hunger levels and the amount of food we eat. It acts as a sort of nutrient sensor. It means that people with individual variations in this gene want to eat more than they need. Scientists have already pointed out some of these variations in people with higher BMI.

Counteracting hunger can be hard to do, but a way to turn off this gene expression is through exercise. More laborious physical activities can combat the FTO polymorphism. It has proven that it is enough for people with this gene variation to exercise for 30 minutes, five days a week, to keep this gene turned off.

PPARG and Specific Foods

Another weight affecting gene is the Peroxisome proliferator-activated receptor gamma gene or PPARG, which regulates fat and glucose metabolism and fatty acid storage. The gene creates fat cells and assists the uptake of dietary fats from the blood. If this gene is activated more than usual, then you can gain weight and have a more significant risk for heart disease, stroke, and diabetes. 

However, the gene can be affected through diet. People with PPARG polymorphism are more sensitive to the adverse effects of fats and refined carbohydrates. Therefore these individuals need to eat less fat and more wholegrain carbohydrates, fruits and vegetables. Only a moderate intake of fats should be consumed with a focus on plant-based fats. With a few corrections to your diet, you could easily affect this gene and stop gaining weight because of it.

Methylation and B-Vitamins

How optimal your body operations are is affected by the chemical process called methylation. Without a healthy rate of this process, you will have lowered metabolism, and thus it will be easier for you to gain weight. The polymorphisms involved here are of the PGC-1alpha, which regulates genes involved in energy metabolism, and transcription factor A (TFAM), which correlates to higher rates of obesity.

The amount of methylation is affected by several things like age, race, etc. Even though those things cannot be changed, diet can change the amount of methylation. Optimal eating can bring back the amount of methylation to optimal levels and, in turn, help you lose weight. Foods that increase methylation include foods especially abundant in the B vitamins, especially folic acid and choline, including beans, lentils, green leafy vegetables, cruciferous vegetables, and peas. Add these foods to your diet daily to increase methylation and help with weight loss. I also recommend taking a B-complex supplement with all of the B vitamins, 2-3 times a week.

To conclude: 

Even if you do happen to have most of these gene polymorphisms and you have a harder time losing weight, it’s definitely not impossible. With these lifestyle changes, you can effectively change your genes and significantly influence your weight. All you need is to persist with these changes until they become your new habitual behaviors. No change is easy, but it is definitely worth it!

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Galit Goldfarb


[1] Nutr J. 2007; 6: 29. Published online 2007 Oct 18. doi: 10.1186/1475-2891-6-29

[2] Nat Rev Endocrinol. 2014 Jan;10(1):51-61. doi: 10.1038/nrendo.2013.227. Epub 2013 Nov 19.

[3] Heikkinen S, Argmann C, Feige JN, Koutnikova H, Champy MF, Dali-Youcef N, Schadt EE, Laakso M, Auwerx J. The Pro12Ala PPAR?2 Variant Determines Metabolism at the Gene-Environment Interface. Cell Metabolism. Volume 9, Issue 1, 7 January 2009, Pages 88-98

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