10 May, 2023

Is Obesity Genetic?

As the prevalence of obesity rises, it becomes a greater threat to public health in many nations. Obesity, defined as a body mass index (BMI) of 30 or greater, is linked to numerous adverse health outcomes, such as insulin resistance, high blood pressure, and even some forms of cancer. While lifestyle factors, such as diet and physical activity, play a significant role in the development of obesity, this blog will explore the underlying contributors, and factors related to the genetic causes of obesity.

How Prevalent Is Obesity In The United States?

According to data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), in 2020, the prevalence of obesity among adults in the United States was 42.4%. This means that almost half of all adults in the country have a body mass index (BMI) of 30 or higher, which is considered to be in the obese range.

The prevalence of obesity has been steadily increasing in the United States over the past few decades. In the 1960s, the prevalence of obesity among adults was less than 15%. By the 1990s, it had risen to around 23%, and it has continued to increase since then.

Obesity is also a significant problem among children and adolescents in the United States. According to the CDC, in 2018, the prevalence of obesity among children and adolescents aged 2-19 years was around 18%, and at the last count in 2020, it had risen to almost 22%.

Obesity causes and effects

Does Genetics Play A Role In Obesity?

The short answer is that yes, there is a genetic component to obesity. Genetic testing for obesity studies has identified variants that are associated with an increased risk of obesity.

Research has shown that genetics do play a significant role in the development of obesity. For example, a 2015 study published in The Journal Nature found that between 40-70% of the variation in BMI between individuals can be attributed to genetic factors.

Another study published in the American Journal of Human Genetics in 2013 identified 97 various genetic causes of obesity in areas associated with BMI regulation.

3 Genes Linked To Obesity

One of the key genes associated with obesity is the FTO gene. Studies have shown that people with certain variants of the FTO gene are more likely to be obese. The FTO gene helps regulate the balance between appetite and energy expenditure, and variations in this gene can lead to an increased appetite and decreased energy expenditure, which can contribute to the development of obesity.

Other genes that have been associated with an increased risk of obesity include:

  • The MC4R gene which is similar to the FTO gene, plays a part in regulating appetite and energy balance.
  • The PPARG gene which is involved in the regulation of fat storage and insulin sensitivity.

While these genetic factors may increase the risk of obesity, it is important to note that genetics is not the only factor involved in the development of obesity.

The Role of Lifestyle Factors in Obesity

Lifestyle factors, such as diet and physical activity, also play a critical role in the development of obesity.


The modern Western diet, which is high in processed and high-calorie foods, has been linked to an increased risk of obesity. Similarly, a sedentary lifestyle, characterized by a lack of physical activity, can also contribute to the development of obesity.

A study published in the New England Journal of Medicine in 2011 found that the consumption of processed foods and sugar-sweetened beverages was associated with weight gain, while the consumption of fruits, vegetables, whole grains, nuts, and yogurt was associated with maintaining a healthy weight.


In addition to diet, physical activity is also a critical factor in the development of obesity. A study published in the Journal of Physical Activity and Health in 2015 found that sedentary behavior was associated with an increased risk of obesity, while physical activity was associated with a decreased risk of obesity.

Environmental Factors

Environmental factors also play a crucial role in the development of obesity. The modern environment, with its abundance of cheap, high-calorie foods and sedentary lifestyles, is thought to be a major contributor to the obesity epidemic.

  • Poor sleep habits or not getting enough sleep can contribute to weight gain and obesity. When we don’t get enough sleep, our bodies produce more of the hormone ghrelin, which stimulates hunger, and less of the hormone leptin, which suppresses appetite. As a result, we may feel more hungry and less satisfied after eating, leading us to eat more calories than we need.
  • Chronic stress stimulates the production of cortisol, a hormone that increases appetite and cravings for high-calorie foods while promoting the storage of excess fat. Chronic stress can also cause individuals to turn to food as a way to cope with their emotions. This can lead to overeating, weight gain, and obesity.
  • Factors such as easy access to fast food and processed snacks, the advertising of unhealthy foods, and the availability of high-calorie foods in larger portions have all been identified as environmental factors that contribute to obesity.

Psychological Factors

Psychological factors, such as stress and depression, can also contribute to the development of obesity. People who experience chronic stress or depression may be more likely to engage in behaviors that contribute to weight gain, such as overeating or a lack of physical activity.

Medical Conditions

Certain medical conditions can also contribute to the development of obesity. For example, hormonal imbalances, such as an underactive thyroid gland, can slow down metabolism and promote weight gain. Medications used to treat conditions such as depression, diabetes, and high blood pressure can also cause weight gain as a side effect.

What Treatments Are Available To Combat Genetic Causes Of Obesity?

Is obesity genetic? Yes, genetics can play a significant role in the development of obesity. However, it is most often not the sole determinant of the disease. Lifestyle factors, such as diet and physical activity, also play a critical role.

Seeking assistance from a qualified professional can help you attain sustainable weight loss. A doctor who is trained in obesity medicine can identify and address the underlying factors, genetic or otherwise, that may have thwarted your previous weight loss efforts.

They may also determine you are a good candidate for a non-surgical weight loss procedure such as the Orbera balloon, endoscopic sleeve gastroplasty (ESG), or prescription weight loss medication. These tools can make your weight loss journey a bit easier and make your efforts count for more.

Contact Reveal Weight Loss to Get The Help You Need

If you are suffering from obesity, Reveal Weight Loss can help. We offer customized solutions to address your individual needs as well as comprehensive support to help you reach and maintain your weight loss goals.

Our endobariatric center is the premier provider of non-surgical weight loss procedures in New Jersey. With our double board-certified team, you are receiving the benefit of over 14 years of experience and the high level of expertise gained through over 10,000  endoscopic procedures. Our 360-degree approach to weight loss ensures you are provided with the tools and strategies you need to lower your BMI and maintain a healthier lifestyle.

Contact Reveal Weight Loss today and set up a consultation to learn more about non-surgical weight loss options and lifestyle coaching programs that can help you reach a healthy BMI.

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