Page URL: https://www.bionews.org.uk/page_144146

Exercise more beneficial for those with higher genetic risk of obesity

5 August 2019
Appeared in BioNews 1009

A study examining the interaction between individuals' genetics and 18 types of exercise has found that certain physical activities could reduce the genetic effects that cause obesity.

Researchers at Taiwan University examined 18,424 unrelated Han Chinese adults between 30 to 70 years old who participated in the Taiwan Biobank (TWB). They assessed their self-reported exercise routines against five measures of obesity: body mass index, body fat percentage, hip circumference and waist-to-hip ratio. Using lifestyle and genomic data from the TWB, they constructed genetic risk scores for each of the obesity measures and then tested whether certain exercises counteracted the risk. 

Overall, they showed that those with the highest risk of obesity benefited most from regular exercise. In addition, a regular routine of jogging was shown to be the most effective, followed by mountain climbing, power walking, walking and long yoga sessions.

'This study adds to the collection of emerging evidence of the benefits of physical exercise in reducing obesity in those of us with and without the genes that make it easier for us to gain weight,' said Professor Lora Heisler, Chair in Human Nutrition, Rowett Institute, University of Aberdeen.

Obesity is a major global public health problem, especially in developed countries. The complex interplay between multiple genes involved in obesity – up to 400 different genes – and lifestyle factors, makes it difficult to tackle this condition.

Dr Simon Cork, Lecturer in Medical Education, King's College London, noted that 'The study was performed only on people of Han Chinese ethnicity. It is not clear whether the results from this study will be applicable to say Caucasian or Afro-Caribbean individuals, who may have different genetic predispositions.'

Dr Cork also urged people to be cautious of the results, adding: 'Various studies have shown that exercise alone is not sufficient to lose significant body weight in the absence of more general lifestyle changes (such as diet). So, while this study does suggest that some types of exercise are better than others (at least in the Chinese Han population), people should be cautious about employing these techniques as their primary source of weight loss.'

It is not clear why jogging was the most favourable exercise in this population; however, running is known to provide several benefits, including improved circulation and oxygen distribution in the body, potentiated memory, cognitive function and reduced stress. Interestingly, other types of exercise, such as swimming, cycling and stretching did not modify the genetic effects on any of the obesity measure, but researchers did not take into account the intensity of exercises undertaken, which would ideally have been controlled for. 

Dr Wan-Yu Lin, Associate Professor at Taiwan University and lead author, said: 'Exercises in cold water such as swimming can especially stimulate appetite and food intake.'

Doctors often recommend exercise to people who are at risk of obesity, but the type of exercise chosen is rarely selected based on people genetic make-up. Therefore, this study warrants further investigation to understand how effective exercise can be tailored to those individuals at risk of obesity in the wider population.

Dr Jenifer Logue, Clinical Reader and Honorary Consultant in Metabolic Medicine, Lancaster University, added: 'This was observational research with self-reported activity levels; controlled clinical trials would be needed to prove these finding and change clinical guidelines.'

The study was published in PLOS Genetics.

RELATED ARTICLES FROM THE BIONEWS ARCHIVE
25 February 2019 - by Dr Rachel Montgomery 
The risk of being obese as a child can be predicted by DNA modifications that arise while in the womb, and may be influenced by the mother's diet, suggests a new study...
28 January 2019 - by Dr Rosie Gilchrist 
Scientists have identified several genetic variants that tip the balance in favour of being thin...
19 November 2018 - by Eleanor Lynam 
The largest study of its kind has given evidence to suggest that being overweight can cause depression, primarily due to psychological factors...
20 August 2018 - by Helen Robertson 
Researchers have developed a new way of analysing genomic data that may help identify disease risk much earlier than current predictors...
16 April 2018 - by Martha Henriques 
Regular exercise of body and mind can benefit future offspring's brain function, a study in mice has found...
HAVE YOUR SAY
Log in to add a Comment.

By posting a comment you agree to abide by the BioNews terms and conditions


Syndicate this story - click here to enquire about using this story.