Dieting Vs. Genetics: Why Genes May Influence Weight Loss Success or Failure

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Frustrated by the fact that no matter how much time you log on the treadmill your body wants to stay the same size? Turns out your genes may be the reason. Researchers at the Karolinska Institute in Sweden found that no amount of dieting will alter the number of fat-hoarding cells in our bodies. According to their findings published in the science journal Nature, it seems that the number of fat cells is predetermined during adolescence and stays the same later in life. How and where you store fat can’t be changed, and is one of the reasons why dieting doesn’t often work for many people. 

By testing patients who lost huge amounts of weight, they found little change in fat cell numbers. Lead researcher Dr. Kirsty Spalding said, “It explains why it’s so difficult to lose weight and to keep it off–those fat cells aren’t going anywhere, and they’re crying out for more.”

New York Times health and science reporter Gina Kolata set out to understand America’s fixation with dieting for her book Rethinking Thin. For two years, she tracked four chronic dieters who were enrolled in a pilot study studying obesity and the low-carb Atkins diet at three prominent medical centers. While the participants in the study experienced positive behavior changes regarding how they viewed nutrition, such as eating smaller portion sizes, selective grocery shopping and monitoring calories, no one really won the battle to become thin. Some lost a few pounds, most stayed obese.

Kolata concluded that it’s not a lack of a willpower that keeps us above our idealized target weight. ”Scientists know that animals and people have a range of weights that they can comfortably sustain. Each person’s range is different but any weight much above or below a person’s range is almost impossible to maintain.”  There is no perfect diet, she insists. “In the end,” she adds, “no matter what the diet and no matter how hard they try, most people will not be able to lose a lot of weight and keep it off. They can lose a lot of weight and keep it off briefly, they can lose some weight and keep it off for a longer time, they can learn to control their eating, and they can learn the joy of regular exercise…The effort, the lifelong effort, can be rewarding. But true thinness is likely to elude them.”

So if you’re going to fixate on something, you’ll get better results with concentrating on eating the right kind of foods and getting regular exercise and letting your genes do their thing. Try not to get discouraged by this news, but rather know that you’re just as nature intended you.


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