Don’t blame your parents! Kids can overcome genetic susceptibility for obesity

Medicine concept

We hear it all the time, “Everyone in my family is overweight, and I have been overweight my whole life. It is simply in my genes.” While that may be true, we now have evidence that we can overcome genetic predispositions to obesity.

Eurek Alert: Despite common obesity gene variants obese children lose weight after lifestyle changes

A recent publication in the journal Obesity reported on a study in Danish kids and adolescents age 6-18 years. The authors used data from prior studies identifying 15 genetic polymorphisms (SNPs, or gene mutations) that predispose kids to becoming obese. The first part of the study verified that these SNPs did indeed correlate with increased BMI in this Danish cohort.

Then, they performed a lifestyle intervention in 754 of the subjects and monitored if their physiological response related to their genetic makeup or not. Encouragingly, they found the children and adolescents improved their BMI regardless of their genetic propensity for obesity.

This study suggests, therefore, that although our genes may make it more likely we will become obese, the ultimate outcome is still within our control. Said another way, our genes are not our destiny. They are more of a roadmap that we can choose to follow or change directions with the decisions we make regarding our nutrition, physical activity, sleep, stress management, social structure and more.

The next time you want to blame your parents, take a breath and think about ways you can improve your lifestyle to help you on your path to health.

Thanks for reading,
Bret Scher, MD FACC


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Low carb


  1. Carol
    Both of my parents were clinically obese by the time they were 50. I am much beyond that age and am a healthy weight because I eat low-carb. My parents followed their physician’s advice.
  2. Valerie
    Did you actually read the study?
    - A quarter the overweight and obese kids *gained* weight during the intervention (their BMI standard deviation score increased, to be precise).
    - The median weight loss was 0.2 BMI standard deviations. They started at +2.87 BMI standard deviations. That means they lost about 7% of the weight surplus. Not 7% of their starting weight, but 7% of their weight *surplus.*
    - We have no data on weight loss maintenance. We all know losing weight is the easy part. Maintaining is the real challenge.

    So instead of saying that overweight and obese kids lost weight regardless of their genetic make-up, when I read this study, I say that overweight and obese kids failed to lose weight regardless of their genetic make-up.

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