Exercise can blunt the effect of the obesity-related gene FTO, scientists have found.
The FTO gene was recently linked to obesity and increased body mass index (BMI), with individuals who inherit two copies of a particular gene variant estimated to be 67 per cent more likely to need obesity treatment than those with no copies.
However, US researchers have now discovered that the increased risk of obesity "can be blunted through physical activity".
A team at the University of Maryland School of Medicine analysed gene variants and activity levels in 704 members of the Amish community in Pennsylvania.
They found that the obesity-related FTO gene did not increase the risk of obesity in people who did a lot of exercise.
Publishing their findings in the Archives of Internal Medicine, the researchers concluded: "These findings emphasise the important role of physical activity in public health efforts to combat obesity, particularly in genetically susceptible individuals."
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