In the largest study of its kind to date, Cambridge researchers have looked at why some people manage to stay thin while others gain weight easily. They have found that the genetic dice are loaded in favour of thin people and against those at the obese end of the spectrum.

More than six in ten adults in the UK are overweight, and one in four adults is obese. By age five, almost one in four children is either overweight or obese. Excess weight increases the risk of related health problems including type 2 diabetes and heart disease.

While it is well known that changes in our environment, such as easy access to high calorie foods and sedentary lifestyles, have driven the rise in obesity in recent years, there is considerable individual variation in weight within a population that shares the same environment. Some people seem able to eat what they like and remain thin. This has led some people to characterise overweight people as lazy or lacking willpower.

With support from Wellcome and the European Research Council, a team led by Professor Sadaf Farooqi at the Wellcome-MRC Institute of Metabolic Science, University of Cambridge, established the Study Into Lean and Thin Subjects — STILTS — to examine why and how some people find it easier to stay thin than others. Studies of twins have shown that variation in body weight is largely influenced by our genes. To date studies have overwhelmingly focused on people who are overweight. Hundreds of genes have been found that increase the chance of a person being overweight and in some people faulty genes can cause severe obesity from a young age.

Read more at University of Cambridge