How Much Do Genes Determine Body Shape?

CoachMel Answers 9 Comments

Have you ever wondered what you will look like when you get older?

I’ve heard of guys who’ve taken into consideration what their partner’s mum looks like before proposing. It may be shallow, but it’s true!

So, do genetics really play a big part in determining the body shape you’ll end up with?

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Or, is lifestyle a stronger predictor of body shape?

Well, it seems both play a significant role…

The gene effect

Researchers suggest genes may determine up to 80 percent of your weight and body shape.

But, it’s also true that environment, and the choices you make, play a very significant role.

The idea that genes determine adult shape and size originally came from studies on identical twins in the 90’s.

However, new research shows that particular aspects of shape and size are more closely tied to genes than others.

For example, how easily you develop muscle mass — this is inherited.

A study published in the International Journal of Obesity found that while you need physical activity to build muscle, people who have “muscular genes” need less exercise than others to look fit.

It’s also thought that if both your mother and father carry extra weight around their middle, unfortunately you may too.

Obviously, inheriting half of your genes from your mother and half from your father means you’re a blend of both.

So, if your father also carries weight in this area (which tends to be a problem for most women), you may be unfortunate enough to get the worst combination from both parents.

Before you decide there’s nothing you can do about it…

It’s pretty obviously, but genes have been around since, well, the beginning. So, something must have happened in recent years to have led to the obesity epidemic we now see.

My guess is that environment plays a pretty big role.

While it’s true that family members tend to have similar body shapes due to a strong genetic link, it’s also because they tend to eat the same foods, and have a similar pattern of physical activity.

Thankfully, these are things you can change, if you need to.

A Canadian study suggests that:

  • 30 to 40 percent of exercise habits come from family via genetics and culture.
  • 50 percent are related to your environment.

In a study of 35 pairs of twins (one twin was active, one was sedentary), the active siblings had a lower BMI than their sedentary twin. And, in those that were active, none were overweight.

This is proof that even among those with strong hereditary characteristics, exercise beats genetics.

Remember, lifestyle trumps bad genetics in the majority of cases.

Big_MamaSo, if your mum’s more like “Big mama” than Elle MacPherson, don’t worry!  A family tendency to carry extra weight doesn’t mean you are destined to be the same.

Whatever your body shape, it’s by no means a fat sentence. Remember, you are in the driver’s seat, so take control.

It’s true, you may not be able to change your tendency towards an apple-shaped figure, but no matter what your genes, you won’t gain weight if you’re eating the right foods and exercising correctly.

If you are struggling, I can help you with both… see here

It’s your choice — choose to be healthy and get some exercise, rather than lamenting your “bad genes!”

So tell us, would it worry you if you looked like your mum or dad in later years?

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Comments 9

  1. Mustang

    I tend to believe in both aspects, genetics and environment. My kids have inherited, I think some “natural abilities” due to genetics, with respect to sports from both parents and from environment too, as all their lives, they have seen me active and working out. So to them, being an athlete , exercising and eating like an athlete is normal and logical to them .
    .-= Mustang´s last blog ..Mar 16, Roush Mustangs – History, Specs and Pictures =-.

    1. Melanie

      That’s wonderful. It’s refreshing to hear a positive story like that, so many people have difficulties getting their kids to be healthier. Thanks for sharing.

  2. Kelly Braun

    Hi Melanie,
    I have been a nutrition freak for most of my life and have recently started taking classes to finsh my degree in Fitness and Nutrition. After spending 22 years in the retail industry I thought making it into Management would lessen the effects of all the heavy physical work on my body but that wasn’t the case. I am on the 1st of two surgeries to fix and re-strengthen my thumbs. I love being active but some things are not worth it when there is a possibilty of being disabled.
    I was wondering how and why you chose the internet as your source to reach people?


    Kelly B.

    1. Melanie

      Hi Kelly,
      Well, I started Dietriffic in 2007 when I moved to Australia with my husband. He was working in a church over there, and I helped him with a lot of the work, as there was loads of travelling between churches each week. This meant that I couldn’t get a job in a hospital, since the hours were so changeable, so I started this website, and it has really escalated from there.

      When we returned home to the UK in 2009 I realised that it was something I could keep doing, and I now work from home as an “online” dietitian and also look after my little girl.

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