With 11.4 million Australians apparently having a BMI that would classify them as being obese, carrying excess weight is a major health concern. But what if you simply have the ‘fat’ gene?
The most common ‘fat’ gene is the Fat-mass and Obesity Associated Gene – otherwise known as FTO – a protein encoded on chromosome 16. Everyone has it, but some people have a version which means they are predisposed to having a higher BMI and experiencing weight gain.
Those who have FTO variations don’t respond to the appetite hormones released from the gut and fat cells, which send a signal to the brain that you’ve had enough to eat. Basically your brain tells you you’re still hungry even though you’ve had enough to sustain your body.
That doesn’t mean you should give up trying to lose weight. In fact, scientists have realised that if you have the FTO variation, you’re actually 30 per cent more likely to be able to combat your obesity through exercise than those who have the standard FTO gene.
Also, your gut bacteria could actually help alter the signal your brain receives from the FTO. Christensenellaceae is one of a network of microbes that live in your gut and is linked to your BMI. If you have a high level, as one in 10 people do, then you’re less likely to put on weight. The positive news is that there are certain foods you can eat to encourage the growth of this good bacteria. A varied diet and one with high fibre will increase the likelihood of the good bacteria flourishing at the expense of the bad ones.
A Mediterranean-style diet – without pizza and pasta – is recommended: think artichokes, full-fat yoghurt and even a little dark chocolate now and again.