There is a widely acknowledged genetic component to body mass index (BMI) and obesity.

Scientists have found a strong association between BMI and variants of one gene, known as the fat mass and obesity associated (FTO) gene. Studies show these mutations are present in about 30% of European populations and are associated with a 1.75-kg (about 3.9 lbs.) increase in body weight.

Now, researchers at the University of Maryland School of Medicine in Baltimore have discovered that people with the gene mutation may be able to offset their increased risk for obesity through physical activity. Their study was published in yesterday’s edition of Archives of Internal Medicine, a medical journal for physicians. 

“The weight increase resulting from the presence of these [mutations] is much smaller and not statistically significant in subjects who are very physically active,” the researchers write, which means lifestyle changes could ultimately  prevent obesity in genetically susceptible individuals.

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