Obesity Genes We Share with Mice

You know the type: they eat and eat and never gain any weight. You, on the other hand, gain weight at the first M&M. Have you found yourself blaming obesity genes? Well, you may be right. In a recent study in Cell Metabolism, 100 different genetic strains of mice were given a regular diet for eight weeks, then switched to a high fat/high sugar diet for another eight weeks. In some mice the high fat/high sugar diet caused no change in body fat percentage. In other mice, the change in body fat percentage was 600%.

“It isn’t just about how much we eat,” principal investigator Dr. Jake Lusis, professor of medicine and human genetics and of microbiology, immunology, and molecular genetics at the Geffen School of Medicine, told the Huffington Post. “Genes have a huge effect.”

A number of the mouse genes implicated in the surprising change in percentage of body fat are ones that mice share with humans. So it is very likely that “obesity genes” exist in one form or another and contribute to our overall weight. However, obesity genes are not all that determine our weight. The amount of exercise we choose to do and what we choose to eat are things we do have control over. “If people consume a high-fat diet, the response will be predominantly determined by genetics,” said Dr. Lusis. “But whether you choose to eat a high-fat diet in the first place is largely environmental.”

So next time you’re ready to blame obesity genes, know that you’re at least partly correct.

Click here to read more in the Huffington Post  and here to read the study in Cell Metabolism.

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Two Mice, image from the Human Genome wall for SC99/ Wikimedia