Obesity and Genetics

Page content

Obesity is a growing problem in America. Obesity researchers do believe that the increase in obesity is partially due to environmental factors, such as availability of food and proneness to a sedentary lifestyle. This causes people to consume more calories than they are able to burn, resulting in weight gain. Though a definite link hasn’t been proven, there is still a lot of research being conducted on obesity and genetics so medical science may have more definitive answers in the future.

Weight Maintenance Genes

Leptin and its receptor are the only two that have been shown to play a major role in the pathogenesis of obesity and body weight control. Other genes and products of genes may play a role in body weight and food intake. These include the following:

  • Melanocortins: When disruptions occurred in mice, obesity occurred.
  • Mitochondrial uncoupling proteins: Some research suggests that they may be associated with body weight in man through energy expenditure.
  • Tubby protein: Mice who had this protein naturally occurring, had adult onset obesity.
  • Neuropeptide Y: Stimulator of feeding behavior.
  • Carboxypeptidase E: Mice with a mutation in this gene slowly gained weight and became obese as they aged.
  • Beta-adrenergic receptors: Certain mutations in this gene may predispose people to experiencing obesity and diabetes.

What is Obesity?

Obesity is a condition in which a person has an excessive amount of body fat. Men with a body fat percentage of more than 25 percent are considered obese. Women with a body fat percentage of more than 30 percent are considered obese. Body mass index is most often used to determine a person’s level of obesity.

Health Effects of Obesity

In the United States, almost two-thirds of adults are obese or overweight. Childhood obesity is also growing with nearly 15 percent of children being overweight. With excess body weight comes an increased potential for a variety of health conditions. These health problems can be dangerous, and in some cases, life threatening. Obesity may put a person at an increased risk for type 2 diabetes, stroke, high cholesterol, sleep apnea, gallstones and gallbladder disease, gastroesophageal reflux disease, heart disease, high blood pressure, certain cancers, osteoarthritis, fatty liver disease, gout as well as emotional and psychological effects.

Obese patients can greatly reduce their risks of the above health conditions, as well as others related to excess weight, by losing weight. Even losing just 10 to 20 pounds can make a difference. A medical doctor can help a patient develop a plan for weight loss that fits them and their needs.


Bowen, R. (2001). Genetics and Food Intake, Body Weight and Obesity. Retrieved on March 14, 2011 from Colorado State University: https://www.vivo.colostate.edu/hbooks/pathphys/digestion/pregastric/fatgenes.html

Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. (2010). Obesity and Genetics. Retrieved on March 14, 2011 from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention: https://www.cdc.gov/Features/Obesity/