Lucky genes can help protect obese people from some diseases

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In a new study from Brunel University London, researchers found why some people with obesity remain relatively healthy, while others suffer from life-changing ailments such as type 2 diabetes and heart disease.

Anyone with a BMI over 30 is considered obese rather than just overweight.

Although people with obesity all have a few extra kilos in common, two people with the same BMI can have very different amounts of fat, and that fat can be distributed in different places throughout the body.

Fat stored under the skin, like a paunch or a double chin, is considered less harmful than fat stored around organs such as the liver and heart.

It’s the genes we’re born with that determine how and where this fat is stored—what scientists refer to as having “favorable” or “unfavorable” adiposity.

Researchers found some people have unlucky fat genes, meaning they store higher levels of fat everywhere, including under the skin, liver and pancreas. That’s associated with a higher risk of diseases such as type 2 diabetes.

Others are luckier and have genes that mean higher fat under the skin but lower liver fat and a lower risk of diseases like type 2 diabetes.

In the study, the team found that of the 37 diseases they tested, 12—including heart disease, stroke and type 2 diabetes—were directly related to the genes that determine whether or not a person has a “favorable adiposity”.

Nine could be said to be unrelated to someone’s adiposity and were most likely a result of simply carrying too much weight, such as having deep vein thrombosis or arthritic knees.

However, the researchers caution that regardless of whether someone has favorable or unfavorable adiposity, being obese is a serious hazard to a person’s health.

They also found some other diseases previously thought to be related to someone’s weight, such as Alzheimer’s, appear to be unconnected.

The results also provide evidence that everyone will benefit from losing their extra fat even if they are metabolically healthy.

If you care about wellness, please read studies about common eating habits that could cause too much weight gain, and exercise that has unique benefits for weight loss.

For more information about health, please see recent studies about common food oil in the U.S. that could change genes in the brain, and results showing scientists find gene that doubles death risk in COVID-19.

The study is published in eLife. One author of the study is Dr. Hanieh Yaghootkar.

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