Diets are actually MORE effective if your family has a history of obesity

Rob Waugh
People with a family history of obesity are more likely to benefit from dieting, a study has found.

Some people are genetically predisposed to being overweight – but dieting is actually more effective if obesity ‘runs in the family’.

Harvard researchers found that dieters with the highest genetic risk factors for being obese were able to improve their BMI 70% more effectively by dieting.

Dr Louisa Ells, of Teesside University in Middlesbrough, who reviewed the findings for the British Medical Journal said, ‘Genetic predisposition is no barrier to successful weight management and no excuse for weak health and policy responses.’

Researchers from Tulane University and Harvard University analysed data from two large studies of US health professionals – 8,828 women in the Nurses’ Health Study and 5,218 men from the Health Professionals Follow-up Study from 1986 to 2006.


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Genetic risk score was calculated using 77 gene variants associated with body mass index.

Changes in body mass index and weight were calculated every four years.

After 20 years of follow-up, the researchers found that improving diet was associated with decreases in body mass index and body weight – and that the effect was more prominent in people at high genetic risk for obesity than those with low genetic risk.

The researchers write, ‘the genetic risk of weight gain is attenuated by improving adherence to these healthy dietary patterns.’