Sadly, the Obesity Gene Can’t Be Blamed for Your Inability to Lose Weight

By
Photo: John Slater/Getty Images

This awful week just got worse: New research suggests that the so-called obesity gene is not to blame for your inability to lose weight.

There are almost 100 genes linked to obesity, but one in particular, FTO, has the strongest connection to weight in white and black people. (It’s involved in regulating how the body either turns calories into fat or burns them for heat.) For a paper in BMJ, researchers at Newcastle University looked at genetic data from more than 9,000 people enrolled in eight studies to see how the FTO gene affected weight loss.

The participants were randomly assigned to different weight-loss methods (including diet, exercise, and weight-loss drug) and in studies that ranged in length from eight weeks to three years. The researchers were surprised to find that having the mutation didn’t matter: There was no significant difference in changes in weight, BMI, or waist circumference.

Lead author John Mathers told Time, “We think this is good news — carrying the high risk [form of the gene] makes you more likely to be a bit heavier but it shouldn’t prevent you from losing weight. That should encourage people.” Oh yes, a lifetime of careful eating is super encouraging.

Why, Exactly, Do Our Bodies Fight Us on Weight Loss?