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We know that family members are not genetically identical. My sisters and I are a good example.

We are two years apart in age. They were born at normal 7-pound-ish weights. I was premature and weighed 4 pounds, 8 ounces.

From about the age of, oh, let's say 4, I started growing taller and rounder. Of course, I always stood in the center of each photo we took because I was several inches taller at an early age. Eventually I was taller than both parents and my maternal grandparents.

As time went on, my sisters stayed slim and I got heavier. It bothered me because we ate the same meals, played outside the same amount and had the same activity level. They had problems with their skin and some acne, I had clear skin. And even now they are thinner, but they do have more gray hair than I do.

I find some comfort reading about contemporary research studies suggesting that, for some people, being thin has more to do with inheriting a "lucky" set of genes than having a perfect diet or lifestyle.

Yes, a more healthful diet and an active lifestyle are beneficial. I know that.

I found an informative article on the National Institutes of Health Director's Blog about such research. It was written by Francis S. Collins, MD, Ph.D., who was appointed 16th director by President Barack Obama and retained in the job by President Donald Trump.

Collins writes that research on the weight/genetics lottery is progressing quickly and new discoveries are helping to bring into better focus how our bodies store fat and how the complex interplay of genetics, diet, behavior and other factors determines whether we can "readily" maintain a healthy body weight, or whether it takes a lot of work.

Most of it begins with genomes. A genome is a complete set of an organism's DNA, including the genes. Each genome contains all the information needed to build and maintain said organism, whether human or animal.

Researchers in the International Genetic Investigation of Anthropometric Traits (GIANT) program have examined the genomes of more than a half million people to look for genes and regions of chromosomes that play a role in body fat distribution. They found more than 140 genetic locations that contribute to these traits.

For example, we have genetic traits that influence the waist-to-hip ratio, a standard measure of fat distribution in the body. People whose waistlines are larger than their hip circumference have more belly fat around their abdominal organs, which places them at risk for heart disease and diabetes.

Researchers found that more than 49 locations in the genome are linked to fat cell development, blood vessel formation, skeletal growth, glucose control and insulin resistance. And many of the locations showed a larger effect in women, which suggests that fat distribution differs by sex, which helps explain why men and women gain weight in different ways.

We can celebrate that researchers are making discoveries that may provide fresh targets for new weight loss treatments. But since there are so many variables and causes of obesity, they have a long way to go.

So while there are many findings on so many genetic factors, and it can be confusing, Collins contends that the findings should provide optimism that better times are ahead to provide new approaches to prevent or control obesity. Huzzah!

VALENTINE'S CARDS

Arkansas Children's Hospital has a way to send free digital Valentine cards to patients at the hospital. Here is a shortcut link: bit.ly/2Semn8M.

Just use the link and choose a theme card and message. And you can send more than one.

The hospital also accepts donations of new art supplies so the patients can create their own cards or art projects. The wish list includes things like googly eyes, rhinestones, sequins, foam stickers, glue dots and safe scissors. They must be in the original packaging, which can help protect patients from infections.

To schedule a donation, see archildrens.org/toysandgifts.

Email me at:

rboggs@arkansasonline.com

Style on 02/11/2019

Print Headline: Do these genes make me look fat? Maybe

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