Physical Activity Can Reverse Effects of Obesity Gene

Obesity is one of the top preventable causes of death in the world. In the United States alone, obesity kills between 112,000 to 365,000 people every year. On the average, it reduces life expectancy by six to seven years. For people with severe obesity – those who have BMIs greater than 40, life expectancy is reduced by five years in women and about 20 years in men. As the health, economic, and social impacts of obesity increasingly become a global concern, many researchers in all corners of the world are in constant search of ways to maintain a healthy lifestyle and body.

A bleak picture

Currently, the state of obesity in the United States is grim. The recently released report on obesity by the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation and the nonprofit organization Trust for America’s Health paints a disturbing image of an obese America.

The report, entitled "F as in Fat: How Obesity Policies Are Failing in America, 2008", reveals that that over 25% of adults are obese in 28 American states – nine state more than the 19 states in 2006.

The numbers are unexpected and not at all optimistic. This is considering the many drives of the US to make its people healthy by reducing the incidence of obesity among adults to at least 15% and among children to at least 5% by 2010.

The importance of physical activity

Obese and overweight people can still improve their condition. One way to avoid obesity and reverse its effects is to engage in physical activities everyday.

A study conducted by researchers at the University of Maryland suggests that physical activities can reduce the risk of becoming obese in people having genetic mutation that programs them to have high BMI. The study informs that variations of a specific gene (fat mass and obesity associated gene), are acknowledged to have strong association with a high BMI.

Reversing the effects of obesity gene

In the study, the researchers examined DNA samples from 704 healthy Amish adults. The result showed that 63.7% of women and 54% of men were overweight, whereas 30.5% of women and 10.1% of men were obese.

One interesting finding was that Amish people who had the genetic variant had reduced risk to become overweight as long as they got involved in physical activities three or four hours daily. Physical activities included gardening, housecleaning, brisk walking and other moderate activities).

Lead researcher Dr. Soren Snitker says, "Our results strongly suggest that the increased risk of obesity due to genetic susceptibility can be blunted through physical activity. Some of the genes shown to cause obesity in our modern environment may not have had this effect a few centuries ago when most people’s lives were similar to that of present-day Amish farmers."

The authors confirmed in the Archives of Internal Medicine that maintaining an active and healthy lifestyle is one of the solutions to obesity, "These findings emphasize the important role of physical activity in public health efforts to combat obesity, particularly in genetically susceptible people".