“Obesity is an energy storage disease that is caused by hormonal imbalances,” said Dr. Mitchell Roslin, chief of obesity surgery at Lenox Hill Hospital in New York City. “Your genetic makeup plays a role, but your activity and the environment also influence your genetic expression,” he explained.
“Many believe that obesity is an epigenetic disease, meaning it is not the genes themselves but how the environment changes their shape,” Roslin continued. “Think of genes as pieces in a jigsaw puzzle. The environment puts the puzzle together. Our actions matter, and while our genes influence our behavior, our behavior influences how genes work and their effect on the body.”
Dr. Jamie Kane, chairman of the Center for Weight Management at Northwell Health’s Syosset Hospital in Syosset, N.Y., said the study “seems to ring true based on the research that’s out there to date, and based on my clinical experience as well.”
Kane and his staff try “to look at the lifestyle, and work at the most stringent level with patients because we don’t know who has what genetics,” he said.
It might require more dedication, but a person can overcome genetics that might otherwise lead to obesity, Kane concluded.
“There are a very small number of people who suffer from morbid obesity where it’s purely genetic,” he said. “In most of these cases, people might need to exercise way more than the average person, and they might need to change their diet dramatically.”
Frayling and his colleagues presented their findings this week at the annual meeting of the American Society of Human Genetics, in Orlando, Fla. Research presented at meetings should be viewed as preliminary until published in a peer-reviewed journal.
The Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health has more on the genetics of obesity.