Linked Research Article
This Perspective discusses the following new study published in PLoS Medicine:
Kilpeläinen TO, Qi L, Brage S, Sharp SJ, Sonestedt E, et al. (2011) Physical Activity Attenuates the Influence of FTO Variants on Obesity Risk: A Meta-Analysis of 218,166 Adults and 19,268 Children. PLoS Med 8(11): e1001116. doi:10.1371/journal.pmed.1001116
Ruth Loos and colleagues report findings from a meta-analysis of multiple studies examining the extent to which physical activity attenuates effects of a specific gene variant, FTO, on obesity in adults and children. They report a fairly substantial attenuation by physical activity on the effects of this genetic variant on the risk of obesity in adults.
An impressively large meta-analysis in this issue of PLoS Medicine shows that physical activity modifies the effect of a common genetic trait on body mass. It was already known that certain variants of the “fat mass and obesity associated” (FTO) gene predispose to weight gain, but this article shows that this effect is weaker among physically active persons .
The authors argue that this is important because many people have a determinist view of genes and may think that when something is written in your genetic code, nothing can be done to alter the course of fate. The study shows that view to be overly simplistic: genes may predispose to weight gain, but this weight can be lost by extra physical activity. And in time, studies into the causes of this gene–behaviour interaction may lead to new treatments for obesity.