6.7.17
Fat Genes

The perfect jeans are hard to come by; perfect genes are even rarer. Former Guest Editor, hormone and anti-aging expert Dr. Sara Gottfried, is showing us how to turn on and off the skinny genes that are responsible for how well our metabolism works throughout our lives. Find out why a healthy metabolism is about much more than shopping a good sample sale…

Genetics play an important role in weight gain and obesity, but even if you didn’t inherit lean genes, you can behave as if you did by turning genes on and off to your advantage. The trick is to upgrade how your genes talk to your environment – also known as the gene/environment interaction. Contrary to what we thought even a decade ago, only ten percent of your risk of disease, such as obesity, is genetic; 90 percent is due to your environmental factors, much of which are under your control with the way you eat, drink, move, sleep and think.

When it comes to getting older, it turns out that weight gain is one of the most powerful determinants of how fast you are aging.

While your body operates with the 90/10 rule in effect, you can work more wisely with the genes that you have. Many of these genes are known as “famine” genes that evolved to help you extract as much energy as possible from the food you eat, so that you could bank fat and survive a famine. That was a good idea thousands of years ago, but now those same genes can make your jeans tight. While 75 genes increase your chance of obesity, below are the five most important ones that may influence your risk of weight gain and how to change their expression with your lifestyle cues.

Even though you’re stuck with the genes you have, you have power over how those genes talk to the rest of your body. Apply these strategies to turn on and off genes to help reach and maintain your ideal weight and extend your healthspan.

FTO or “Fatso” Gene

Official Name: Fat mass and obesity associated (FTO) gene

Their Job: The FTO gene is the gene most strongly associated with your body mass index and, consequently, your risk for obesity and diabetes. When you have the variant that turns off the gene, you may experience poor control of leptin, the hormone of satiety. In other words, you’re hungry all of the time. FTO behaves like a fat sensor. People with the FTO variant may be more fat sensitive and tend to eat more food, particularly fat-rich foods, in childhood. People who inherit a faulty gene from each parent (rs9939609) weigh about seven pounds more and have a 70 percent greater risk of obesity compared with people who inherit the normal gene from each parent.

Your Task: You can turn on the Fatso gene with exercise, sleeping 7 to 8.5 hours every night, and a low-carbohydrate food plan that’s high in fiber. People with the FTO variant, even though they are more predisposed to obesity, they respond just as well to dietary and lifestyle interventions according to a meta-analysis of eight randomized trials of 9,500 people.

MCR4 or “Oversnacker” Gene

Official Name: Melanocortin 4 receptor (MCR4)

Their Job: People with this gene variant are more likely to snack too much, in the absence of hunger. They are the people who graze most of the day, taking slivers of cake or tortilla chips. The gene modulates one’s appetite for fat, specifically in the amygdala.

Your Task: When you have an increased tendency to snack, I recommend three measured meals, four to six hours apart, with nothing in between. Eat slowly. Resist the urge to snack. Consider more boundaries on your food intake, and if that doesn’t work, check out a 12-step program for food addiction such as Overeaters Anonymous or Food Addicts in Recovery.

ADRB2 or “Twice as Hard” Gene

Official Name: Adrenergic beta-2 surface receptor (ADRB2)

Their Job: The ADRB2 gene is another famine gene. When turned on, the gene may impair the breaking down of fat, leading to slower metabolism. As a result, you bank fat unnecessarily. Variants may increase the risk of obesity three-fold. Other risks include nocturnal asthma and Type 2 diabetes. Overall, people with this variant, like me, have a lifelong difficult relationship to weight and food. When you have this variation, weight loss takes you twice as long as it takes a normal person. While FTO is associated with body weight, ADRB2 is associated with fat distribution.

Your Task: Exercise helps. So does a mindset shift. When you accept that it will take you twice as long as your friend to lose weight, it can be strangely calming. Focus on eating the right types and amounts of food with steady discipline. External and internal accountability helps: food journal, group detoxes. Keep in mind that the best path forward is slow and steady weight loss, sustained over time. Track body composition and fat distribution over time.

The Chalkboard Mag and its materials are not intended to treat, diagnose, cure or prevent any disease. 
All material on The Chalkboard Mag is provided for educational purposes only. Always seek the advice of your physician or another qualified healthcare provider for any questions you have regarding a medical condition, and before undertaking any diet, exercise or other health related program. 


Meet one of our fave pros on the topic of hormones, aging and women's health, Dr. Sara Gottfried. We're talking about easy ways to anti-age, including a killer red sangria recipe...

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