~ 090710 Fat Genes Don't Mean Fat Jeans

By Nanci Hellmich, USA TODAY

If you've been blaming your weight on your genes, get out and take a brisk walk. It will help fight your tendency toward overweight, a new study shows.

Researchers in Great Britain studied 12 genetic variants known to increase the risk of obesity and tracked the physical activity levels of 20,430 people.

They created a genetic summary score to quantify a person's risk of obesity and then examined whether an active life could reduce the genetic influence.

Findings: Physical activity can reduce the genetic tendency toward obesity by 40%, according to the research, reported Tuesday in PLoS Medicine.

"Our findings challenge the popular myth that obesity is unavoidable if it runs in the family," says senior researcher Ruth Loos of Great Britain's Medical Research Council in Cambridge. "We see this as a hopeful message."

You can get the benefits without running marathons, she says. You can walk the dog, bike to work or take the stairs: "Being active about 30 minutes a day is a good start in reducing the effects of the genes.".

U.S. experts say the study adds to the data on the importance of exercise for weight control. "This is more evidence that behavior can modify genetic predisposition," says Tim Church, director of preventive medicine research at the Pennington Biomedical Research Center in Baton Rouge.

John Jakicic, director of the Physical Activity and Weight Management Research Center at the University of Pittsburgh, agrees.

"Just because someone has the genes does not mean that they will become overweight or obese," he says. "Lifestyle such as physical activity can modify the effect."

(c) Copyright 2010 USA TODAY, a division of Gannett Co. Inc.

Copyright USA TODAY 2010

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