If the dozen Krispy Kremes were not enough to worry about, now a gene strongly linked to obesity is being traced to people born after 1942. Breaking it down, this goes to the heart of environmental and lifestyle factors enjoyed in the last 70 years. Science is looking for a polite way to say we have become lazy.
The idea behind the study is that certain genes linked to obesity become activated under certain conditions. These can range from fast food, cars, that awesome flat-screen you just received and any modern lifestyle convenience. Instead of watching the P90x commercial, we should get off the couch and move around.
Researchers have focused their attention on the gene dubbed FTO. About 20 percent of white people have the gene, and the variants increase your risk of obesity. The study used the ongoing Framingham Heart Study to look for the FTO gene. Researchers are collecting data on more than 10,000 participants via questionnaires and medical exams.
This study was able to piggyback thanks to each participant having their DNA sequenced. Study authors were able to piggyback the data and analyze and follow participants that had the FTO gene.
What they found was a difference in weight gained by those born before 1942 and those after. Those of us that aren’t AARP members were out of luck.
Dr. James Niels Rosenquist of Massachusetts General led the study and talked to NBC News.
“These results— to our knowledge the first of their kind — suggest that this and perhaps other correlations between gene variants and physical traits may vary significantly depending on when individuals were born, even for those born into the same families.”
Essentially, this gene had no effect until after World War II. What happened after the war? People moved to office jobs, bought a car and discovered the wonders of McDonald’s. Yeah, you can call FTO the McDonald’s gene.
One ding against this study is that it fails to account for environmental changes. Using older data is easier because of the sheer volume of blood samples, medical questionnaires and other pieces. Gathering the same data today would be a massive undertaking.
So what can you do? Luckily for us mortals, the reason behind FTO activation are choices we make. You can turn off Dancing With the Stars and go for a walk. Instead of the double quarter pounder from MickeyD’s, opt for cooking dinner at home.
Exercise and healthy diet are the two keys to success. Take it from the Amish. They also have the FTO gene, yet remain slim. You don’t see them binge watching Netflix, do you?
The study was published in this week’s Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.