They’re why your eyes are blue and your hair is brown. But do genetics determine the shape of your body? It depends.
Some aspects of shape and size are more closely tied to genes than others, and the location of your fat makes a difference in your health. For instance, are you an apple shape or a pear shape? Generally it’s belly fat, or the apple shape, that presents a higher health risk and an increased risk for becoming obese.
There is speculation that this is because you inherit genes from both your mother and your father. Men typically store extra pounds in their gut region. So if your mother carries weight in her stomach too, the odds are stacked against you of becoming anything but an apple.
From a medical standpoint, this is concerning because when fat settles around the waist rather than the hips, the chance of health issues such as heart disease and type 2 diabetes goes up as well. Fat that builds up on the hips and thighs of the pear-shaped person isn’t as potentially harmful.
Genes are also thought to play a role in things like insulin resistance. Insulin determines how the body stores glucose and fat. It acts like a “gate keeper” to allow glucose entry to cells for energy use.
Insulin resistance happens when the body’s cells become resistant to insulin and ever-increasing amounts of it become necessary to have the same effect on the cells. An increasing waist size and weight gain predominantly in the abdominal area, such as in a person with an apple shape, are risk factors for insulin resistance—which is a precursor to prediabetes and type 2 diabetes. And it’s a vicious cycle here: obesity increases insulin resistance and insulin resistance increases obesity.
Additionally, it turns out that the ease with which you develop muscle mass is an inherited trait. According to study findings published in the International Journal of Obesity, while we all need physical activity in order to build muscle, people who have “muscular” genes require far less exercise than others to look fit.
For this reason, many physicians are beginning to realize that although a person’s body mass index (BMI) is a good starting place to measure body fat, it doesn’t reveal everything about body makeup. Therefore, conclusions about obesity based solely on this number can sometimes be misleading.
Are You Destined to Be Overweight?
As we discussed above, there are differences in your genes that can play a role in your weight and body shape and can lead to weight issues. If your parents are obese, you’re more likely to be, too. But that doesn’t mean you will without question.
There is something to be said about environmental and personal lifestyle factors. You still have the ability to reduce your risk of becoming obese and/or developing diabetes, heart disease, or other related health conditions, by making good lifestyle choices that lead to a healthier life.
“Obesity is a complex disease, and many factors can contribute or lead to it, including genetics, behavior, and environment,” says Dr. Michael Lee. “Obesity can run in families, and not just because of genetics, but also because of environment and habits such as food preference, dietary patterns, and exercise behaviors.”
“More than a third of adults in the United States are obese, and the number of Americans with obesity has steadily increased over the past five decades, but this can’t all be blamed on some monumental changes in our genes. It’s important to recognize that genetic makeup influences the susceptibility to gain weight when a person lives in such a way that supports limited physical activity and excessive eating,” Lee adds.
At Lee Bariatrics, Dr. Lee looks at the whole person when determining an appropriate treatment plan—from family and medical history to lifestyle choices and other factors. Call us today at 1-888-249-4361 to learn more about your surgical weight-loss treatment options for improved overall health.
The above is for general information purposes only and should not be used as a substitute for the medical guidance from and discussion with your physician.