Environmental and lifestyle factors have significant effects on obesity among people who carry the most obesity genes, researchers claim.
These findings, presented at the European Association for the Study of Diabetes (EASD) meeting in Munich, Germany reveal that people at high risk of obesity due to environment and genes will find it hard to maintain a normal weight.
Researchers at the University of Exeter said that while susceptibility to obesity and type 2 diabetes has strong genetic links, it is unknown how genes interact with environment to predispose people to these conditions.
Professor Timothy Frayling and Dr Jess Tyrrell say that their findings contradict previous studies that suggest one aspect of environment, such as eating processed foods and sugary drinks, are especially to blame for obesity. Instead, they argue that no one aspect of the environment is to blame.
The findings were made following an analysis of 120,000 individuals from the UK BioBank. The researchers tested several aspects of the environment, such as time spent watching TV and self-reported physical activity, and measured obesity-related genetic variants. They also examined socioeconomic status.
The authors found that people of below socioeconomic status and high genetic risk were more likely to be overweight.
Frayling and Tyrell said that this relationship has not been thoroughly explored before, and added that while socioeconomic differences do not make people obese, they could explain the addition of a few kgs of weight.
“Our findings suggest that there is no particular aspect of the environment or behaviour that if altered would have a preferential benefit over others,” said the researchers.
“Public health measures aiming to alter all aspects of the obesogenic environment in small ways may have more impact in lowering the prevalence of obesity and type 2 diabetes than targeting a single or few aspects.”

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