Obesity and Genetics (how to influence your genes)

People often complain that obesity and diabetes they suffer from are just a result of having bad genes and there is no way to get rid of it. Is that really so?

Indeed, genes play a crucial role in the functioning of the body and can increase the risk of developing some diseases, including obesity and diabetes. 

However, thinking that you are doomed to have obesity, just because your grandma has problems with overweight is - nothing else but a great excuse to keep consuming processed food and all the candies you love so much - without taking responsibility for possible negative consequences.

The first thing you have to know:

Obesity is the result of the relationship between genes and the environment. There are always genetic factors and lifestyle factors that can impact your health. Even if you are genetically predisposed to having obesity, you can lose weight and reduce the risk of diabetes, by changing your lifestyle habits and improving your diet. 

In this article, I’ll explain how your genes work, what genes can cause diabetes, and how to take control over your weight, regardless of so-called ‘bad genes’.

Does Your Weight Depend on Your Genes?

Genes-vs.-Lifestyle

The first step to understanding whether your obesity is more about your genes or habits is to do a quick analysis of your life and routine.

Let’s have a quick test, these are two types of possible variants (A and B). Look through the characteristics and think about which variant reminds you of your problems with obesity.

Variant A

Obesity-Caused-by-Genes
  • You have been overweight as long as you can remember yourself.
  • Your parents or other blood relatives have obesity.
  • You can't lose weight even when you regularly have high-intensity workouts and stick to a strict low-calorie diet for several months.

Variant B

Lifestyle-Causes-of-Obesity
  • You cannot resist the temptation to buy some candies and have a meal in a fast food restaurant.
  • You are moderately obese, but you can lose excess weight when you follow a healthy diet and don’t skip exercising in the gym.
  • You can gain weight during the holiday season when you allow yourself to enjoy all your favorite high-calorie dishes and rest from the tough gym sessions.
  • You eat more high-calorie foods and gain extra weight during high-stress times.  

Keys to the Test:

  • If you have chosen A, genes contribute to your weight management problems a lot. It will be hard to burn fat and optimize health levels without the professional help of the doctor and the support of your family and friends.
  • If you have chosen B, the problem is not in your genes. You are a prisoner to your habits. Unless you make a well-balanced healthy diet and exercising a part of your life, not a short-term challenge, you won’t be able to fight obesity and maintain a healthy weight.

Genetic Causes of Obesity

Genetic-Causes-of-Obesity

There are some rare forms of obesity, which are caused by genetic mutations, most people will not have these genetic mutations. We can divide them into three main groups:

Monogenic Obesity

Monogenic obesity is caused by a single gene mutation, which damages the regulatory system of appetite and food intake.

Syndromic Obesity

Syndromic obesity is a type of early-onset severe obesity associated with hypothalamic dysfunction, mental retardation, dysmorphic features, organ malformations, and hyperphagia.


The two most frequent forms of syndromic obesity:

  • Bardet Biedl syndrome (BBS). It is characterized by retinal dystrophy, obesity, post-axial polydactyly, renal dysfunction, learning difficulties, and hypogonadism.
  • Prader Willi syndrome (PWS). It is characterized by diminished fetal activity, obesity,
    hypotonia, mental retardation, short stature, hypogonadotropic hypogonadism, strabismus, and small hands and feet. People with PWS are more likely to develop type 2 diabetes.

Polygenic obesity

Polygenic obesity, also known as "common obesity" is the simultaneous presence of DNA variation in multiple genes whose effect is increased due to the lifestyle factors that promote weight gain.

The Main Genes that Impact Metabolism and Weight

The-Main-Genes-that-Impact-Metabolism-and-Weight

If you cannot lose weight no matter how hard you are trying, genes influence is a determining factor. 

Trying to reveal the underlying cause of your problems with weight loss, most likely you’ll have to deal with the following genes:

Fat mass and obesity-associated gene (FTO)

Variations of this gene can cause lower satiety and promote intake of high-calorie foods. On the other side, you can manage this gene with the help of regular physical activity. An active lifestyle can decrease the susceptibility to obesity.

Peroxisome proliferator-activated receptor gamma (PPARG)

This gene is a protein that is crucial for fat metabolism. However, its overactivation can be dangerous. It can cause unwanted weight gain, increase the risk of type 2 diabetes, heart disease, and stroke.

Adrenergic-receptor beta2 (ADRB2)

This gene is considered to play an important role in the regulation of energy, by increasing lipolysis and thermogenesis (in other words breaking down fats). Nevertheless, some variations may increase the risk of diabetes, cardiovascular disease and the metabolic syndrome in women.

These genes are probably the most well-studied and always associated with obesity, trying to interfere with your weight loss goals.

Hormonal Imbalance and Obesity

Hormonal-Imbalance-and-Obesity

Your overall health and weight is directly connected to your hormonal balance. When fighting obesity, it is recommended to assess levels of leptin, insulin, sex hormones and growth hormone.

Leptin and Obesity

Leptin is known to reduce the urge to eat by influencing specific centers of their brain. However, obese people, as a rule, have higher leptin levels and are less sensitive to the appetite-reducing effects of leptin and don't experience the feeling of satiety after a meal.

Insulin and Obesity

Insulin is an important hormone for the regulation of carbohydrates and the metabolism of fat. In overweight people, insulin doesn’t transport glucose into the cells and unable to transform it into energy. Moreover, problems with insulin levels and obesity may lead to type 2 diabetes.

Sex Hormones and Obesity

Both men and women may suffer from the imbalance of sex hormones and gain extra weight. Usually men with low testosterone develop obesity. As for the women, especially postmenopausal women, the production of estrogen in ovaries drops down and the fat distribution changes, which may result in the increased body fat.

Growth Hormone and Obesity

The growth hormone, produced by the pituitary gland in our brain, is responsible for a person's height, growth of bones and muscles. It also influences metabolism. When you gain weight, the levels of growth hormone get lower than in people of a normal weight.

How to Test Hormone Levels

One of the most cutting-edge technologies to assess your hormones is a DUTCH test. It is the comprehensive test which can be easily done in the comfort of your home and give you a clue on how to balance your hormones and support weight management.

Diabetes and Genes

Diabetes-and-Genes

Diabetes is a condition that can be characterized by abnormally high blood sugar levels. There are two main types of diabetes:

  • Type 1 Diabetes  (T1D)
  • Type 2 Diabetes (T2D) 

The Symptoms of Diabetes

  • Frequent urination
  • Bed wetting 
  • Increased thirst
  • Fatigue 
  • Blurred vision
  • Unintended weight loss 
  • Mood changes

Both types can be developed due to bad genetics, family history, and environmental factors. These types are equally serious and dangerous if untreated.

Let’s have a closer look at the causes of type 1 and type 2 diabetes, prevention measures, and genetic testing.

Type 1 Diabetes

Type 1 diabetes, also known as juvenile diabetes, is a less common form of diabetes. It usually occurs during adolescence. 

Causes of Type 1 Diabetes

Genetics

Certain variants of the HLA-DQA1, HLA-DQB1, and HLA-DRB1 genes can increase your risk of developing diabetes.

Viral Infections

Viruses like german measles, coxsackie, and mumps may cause the immune system to work against the body, and contribute to the development of type 1 diabetes.

Family History

If both parents or a sibling has diabetes, the chances of a child to develop type 1 diabetes are high. If the parent has type 2 polyglandular autoimmune syndrome, type 1 diabetes is an almost unavoidable problem for your child.

Note: There are many people with type 1 diabetes that don’t have relatives that have ever suffered from the same condition. All the causes of type 1 diabetes remain unknown, and it can literally appear out of nowhere.

Testing & Diagnosis

The symptoms of type 1 diabetes can be tricky. If your child has some of the mentioned above, it is time to see a doctor. Moreover, it is recommended to get tested for a genetic mutation. There is a chance that your kid doesn’t have type 1 diabetes, but monogenic diabetes. This is a rare form of a non-autoimmune inherited disease that may not require insulin treatment.

Type 2 Diabetes

Type 2 diabetes is known as adult-onset diabetes, but due to obesity children can also be diagnosed with this disorder.

Causes of Type 2 Diabetes

Genetics

Genes that are usually associated with developing type 2 diabetes: TCF7L2, ABCC8, CAPN10, GLUT2, GCGR. However, there are many other gene variations that may cause T2D.

Family History

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Lifestyle Influences

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Testing & Diagnosis

It is not always easy to identify whether the person has type 1 or type 2 diabetes. In order to prevent wrong diagnosis it is important to get the right blood testing done with your doctor.

Genetic testing can help determine your risk factor for diabetes but even if you have the genes for diabetes it does not mean you will get it. 

I personally have the genes for diabetes (type 2), and a family history of diabetes, but I am confident that with this knowledge I will be able to avoid diabetes with diet and lifestyle changes.

Important Factors for the Diagnosis of Diabetes

Important-Factors-for-the-Diagnosis-of-Diabetes

The genetic test is not the only important thing, there are other factors that may help shed a light on the diagnosis.

  • Body mass index (BMI)
  • High blood pressure 
  • High triglyceride and cholesterol levels
  • Family history and history of gestational diabetes
  •  Ancestry, such as Hispanic, African-American, or Asian-American 

Only when the doctor has all the necessary information, including your test results and family history, there will be a clear picture of your condition.

How to Get your Genes Tested

A few years ago it used to cost thousands of dollars to get a genetic test, now thanks to companies like 23andme and SmartDNA it is a lot cheaper.

The test in the video was done through 23andme and the results have been uploaded to Livewello.com to get the health information, the cardiovascular information is not found in their basic reports and this is a special template that I have made.

Other genetic health templates that are available are obesity and diabetes, methylation, brain health, how well you absorb certain nutrients like B vitamins, Vitamin D, selenium and zinc, and if you have the genes for gluten intolerance or dairy intolerance.

If you would like more information on the genetic testing you can schedule a consultation with me.

Is it Possible to Edit Genes?

Is-it-Possible-to-Edit-Genes

Editing genes is not a science-fiction, but reality. Scientists have invented the first technologies for changing DNA in the late 1900s. Nowadays, scientists perform genome editing with the help of such technologies as CRISPR and TALENs. 

However, gene therapy is still experimental due to some technical barriers and ethical concerns.

Another way to influence genes is epigenetic gene expression and regulation, also known as epigenetic therapy. It has been discovered that diseases like obesity have an epigenetic switch. In simple words, it can be possible to preserve certain genes from expressing themselves - "switch Off or On" the genes, just like turning on and off the lights in the room.

Nowadays, it might be too early jumping to conclusions on the effectiveness of epigenetic therapy. Scientists keep investigating epigenetic mechanisms and epigenetic origins of genes, trying to find out whether it is possible to "switch off" obesity and other serious diseases, by optimizing your diet and lifestyle and reducing stress.

However, the existence of epigenetic phenomena proves one more time that environmental conditions and behaviors are not less important and may help influence genetic factor and help treat disease.

Weight Control and Diabetes Management

Genes might not be on your side when it comes to obesity and diabetes. Nevertheless, it doesn’t mean you cannot do anything about it. It is possible to combat obesity and learn to manage diabetes.

1# Get Rid of Sedentary Lifestyle

Train-and-Move-More

Start training regularly, don’t skip the gym session no matter what. You have to train every day for a minimum of 30 minutes. For better results, you can hire a weight-loss coach, who will create a personalized plan of exercises and  control your workout. 

Also, forget about the elevator, use the stairs instead. Try to park further away from building entrances and have a short walk. Instead of spending time on social networks laying in the bed, suggest your friends go for a walk. Take every free moment as an opportunity to move a bit.

2# Stick to the Healthy Diet

Stick-to-the-Healthy-Diet

It is hard to reduce intake of carbohydrates and calories, especially when you are dining out. Though, there is no way to control obesity and diabetes, without a healthy meal plan and discipline 

Step 1. Identify Your Source of Extra Fat

You have to avoid visiting fast food restaurants, fight your obsession with a cup of coffee and doughnuts, sodas, high-sugar desserts, and fried foods.Write down the name of places where you usually violate all the rules of healthy diet, and put efforts to avoid them. 

Step 2. Search for Healthy Restaurants

Check out some vegan-friendly restaurants, find places that focus on health and serve healthy meals made with organic ingredients. Fuel yourself with minerals and vitamins instead of extra calories.

Step 3. Cook at Home

Cooking your own meals is the best way to control what you eat. Visit grocery store and make healthy product choices. Instead of processed ready-to-eat and ready-to-heat products, add to your shop list some veggies and fruits.

Step 4. Consume Healthy Snacks  

Cookies, chips and candy bars are not the only snacks. There are some healthy options to choose from. Here are just a few examples for you:

  • Hummus and carrots
  • Apples, bananas, and other fruits
  • Nuts, but small serving size
  • Air-popped popcorn

Step 5. Start Creating Weekly Meal Plan

A weekly meal plan will help you stick to your diet. Spend a little bit of your time to create a plan with dishes for every meal. Try to diversify your diet with salads,  freshes, veggies, fruits and fatty fish.

Foods that Help Control Diabetes and Obesity

Foods-for-Control-of-Diabetes-and-Obesity

Fatty Fish. Salmon, sardines, herring, anchovies and mackerel help reduce inflammation and the risk of heart disease and stroke.

Leafy Green Vegetables. Spinach and kale help support eye and heart health.

Cinnamon and Turmeric. Spices that help improve insulin sensitivity, regulate blood sugar levels, cholesterol and triglyceride levels, protect from heart and kidney disease.

Greek Yogurt with Chia seeds and Flaxseeds. Such a combination is useful for weight management, reducing blood pressure and inflammation, improving heart health.

Various Types of Nuts. Cashews, Hazelnuts and Walnuts can be a great addition to the diet, reducing blood sugar and insulin levels.

Broccoli and Squash. These vegetables are powerful antioxidants that can combat high blood sugar and protect cells from harmful free radicals and prevent eye diseases.

Virgin Olive Oil. This is a monounsaturated fat, which is a healthy alternative to sunflower, corn and soy oil. It can help improve blood pressure and heart health.

Garlic. Although garlic has a strong odor, it is also a great natural remedy for various health problems, including high blood sugar and cholesterol levels, inflammation, and blood pressure.

Note: However, eating foods that help keep blood sugar, insulin and inflammation under control can dramatically reduce your risk of developing complications.

Bottomline

Genes can negatively impact health.

Healthy lifestyle can help manage genetic diseases.

There is no cure for diabetes.

Diabetes can be treated and controlled.

Bad eating habits you acquired from you family are constantly stopping you from living a healthy lifestyle.

Hard work, discipline, dedication, sacrifice and responsibility for your choices can help you reach your health-related goals.

The procedure of genome editing is still experimental.

The technologies are constantly developing, making the opportunity to fight ‘bad’ genes closer.

Being genetically predisposed to some diseases, should not make you sad or depressed. Let your health problems become your motivation to get stronger and healthier.

If you are not sure what to start with, you can schedule a consultation with me. I’ll help you optimize your health levels and provide you with personal recommendation on your diet.

About the Author Michael

Michael is head consultant at Planet Naturopath - Functional Medicine and Nutrition Solutions. As Seen

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Leave a Comment:

3 comments
    michael says October 11, 2015

    Hi Nina

    I have not made the report’s private but I have never actually checked to see if they are public, I just use these to help clients work out the best diet and nutrition program to optimize their health

    Reply
      Nina says October 12, 2015

      Okay please post the link to your on here cause I’d like to check mine with your report and follow you on livewello too Michael 🙂

      Reply
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