5 Ways Genetics Can Affect Weight (and Weight Loss)

Genetics plays a larger part in our life than we ever imagined. Certain traits, like eye color, hair color, and height, are obviously inherited from our parents. But recent research shows that many less obvious traits are determined by our genetic makeup. For example, genetics contributes to the one in three Americans who are obese. Here are five ways genetics can affect your propensity to lose weight:


Appetite is controlled by the hypothalamus, a region of the brain that connects the brain to the endocrine system. Many processes link the hypothalamus to appetite. Drops in glucose utilization and body temperature, and the presence of endocannabinoids produced as the result of fat metabolism, are interpreted by the hypothalamus as a need for fuel. In response, the hypothalamus stimulates the appetite. Marijuana stimulates appetite because the THC in marijuana mimics endocannabinoids. This tricks the hypothalamus into stimulating appetite.

Research shows that genetic variants in the cannabinoid receptors and adapter proteins in the hypothalamus have a direct effect on appetite and the amount of food consumed, leading to a direct effect on weight gain and obesity. Knowing how the body is programmed to recognize when it is hungry aids nutritionists in developing a personalized weight loss plan.

Reward System

In addition to the hormonal triggers to eat, there are also neurotransmitters that can cause us to eat. One of these arises from the reward system of the brain.

Dopamine is a neurotransmitter that places a value on rewards. Doing something that we love doing triggers a release of dopamine, causing the brain to recognize that activity as rewarding. Dopamine receptors, the cells that detect dopamine and activate a neural signal in response, vary according to our genes. People prone to weight gain and obesity have a genetic variation in their production of dopamine receptors that is similar to that of alcoholics and drug addicts. In people with these genes, food is perceived by the brain as not just fuel, but a reward to be pursued. Understanding the role of these neurological triggers helps to create a custom weight loss program.


Metabolism is the process of converting food into fuel and the nutrients essential for life. Metabolism is controlled by the endocrine system. There are a number of processes that are responsible for metabolism, but generally, metabolism is a series of chemical processes promoted and controlled by enzymes, and enzyme production is programmed by genes. While all the links between genes and metabolic enzymes have not been pinpointed, both anecdotal and scientific evidence establishes that some people have a genetically programmed metabolism that is faster or more efficient.

Metabolic rate is a factor in developing a personalized workout plan to lose weight. For example, workouts raise metabolism. A person with a lower metabolic rate may require a different personalized workout plan to lose weight than a person with a higher metabolic rate.

Fat Storage

Only recently has food been so plentiful for most people that they do not need to be concerned about food scarcity. However, this change in food security has happened so recently that our genes have not had time to catch up. As a result, a gene that was formerly an asset, a gene that triggers the storage of fat in the event that food becomes scarce, has become a liability because any excess food energy goes into building fat reserves. Someone with a body that is genetically inclined to store fat will require a different personalized workout plan to lose weight than someone without that genetic inclination.


Satiation is the opposite of appetite. Satiety is the feeling of being full. Surprisingly to most people, feeling full is not necessarily triggered by the physical limits imposed by the size of our stomachs. Rather, it is triggered by enzymes interacting with the hormone leptin, which is produced by fat cells. The blueprints for these enzymes reside inside genes, meaning that the way our body perceives fullness is, at least in part, dictated by the way our genes produce these enzymes.

Genes are responsible for programming how the body produces proteins, enzymes, receptors, and hormones and, consequently, a body’s ability to lose weight. Understanding this allows the development of a personalized meal plan and personalized workout plan to lose weight.

Like that? Try this.

Leave a Reply

%d bloggers like this: