Could Your Weight Excess Be Genetic?

There is no doubt that the tendency to be overweight can be inherited. You can inherit genes that make you excessively hungry and hunger is one of the biggest reasons why some people cannot stick to a weight loss diet.  New research has identified a hunger gene that may be responsible for excessive hunger in some individuals.

It is certainly true that some people experience a lot more hunger than others.  Some people adore food, and they spend most of their waking moments thinking about and planning their next meal.  We call them “foodies”! Other people are not fussed with food at all, and sometimes forget to eat if they are very engrossed in an activity, or they prefer stimulants such as caffeine and nicotine. These types who crave stimulants instead of food, are usually the Thyroid Body Type.

To discover your body type, go do the Body Type Quiz.

I don’t understand how anyone can forget to eat!  Eating is a very pleasurable activity and it provides your body with the nutrients it needs for health, a good mood and physical energy.  Unfortunately, some people experience a real battle with hunger.  Just one week on a weight loss regime is enough to see them pulling their hair out in desperation; wildly craving their favorite comfort foods.

Science can offer a few explanations for this type of experience.  Recently a hunger gene called MC4R has been discovered.  It seems that some people inherit a defective copy of this gene from their parents and this predisposes them to ravenous hunger for their entire life.  You only need to inherit the gene from one of your parents to be affected.  People with the defective hunger gene spend most of their life overweight; they generally start gaining weight in childhood. This research is still in its infancy and you cannot go to your local pathology company and be tested for this gene yet.

What can you do if you have inherited this gene from a parent?

Does it mean you are destined to spend your entire life overweight and hungry?

Thankfully NO – there are several strategies that can help!

Having a gene for a particular disease does not mean you are doomed!  Your genes are not your destiny.  There was a brilliant article published in Time Magazine in 2006 called Why your DNA is not your Destiny. The article explains the concept of epigenetics meaning that several factors in our environment affect the way our genes behave.  Genes can be turned on or turned off.  You may have a gene for a particular disease, but the gene may be kept silenced (or turned off) for your entire life.  What you eat, what you think and the way you live all determine whether the gene will become activated or not.  A gene symbolizes potential, not destiny.

Genetic and epigenetic mechanisms are influential in the development of obesity and excess abdominal fat. Specifically, it is thought that genetically controlled defects in a chemical process in the body called methylation may impair fat metabolism. People with slow methylation can be prone to a lower metabolic rate and easy weight gain. Your ability to methylate can be checked for by a genetic blood test called MTHFR Genotype. It is possible to increase beneficial methylation by improving liver function and taking activated B vitamins. This will help those with a sluggish metabolism.

Nutr Rev. 2014 Nov;72(11):673-90.
 doi: 10.1111/nure.12143. Epub 2014 Oct 16.

No matter what genes you have been dealt, it is possible to reduce excessive hunger and stick with a healthy diet. For more information see my book titled “I Can’t Lose Weight and I Don’t Know Why”.