Apr 21, 2019 | Updated: 02:21 PM EDT

The Year You Were Born Can Affect Your Risk For Obesity

Jan 03, 2015 05:04 PM EST

(Photo : CGP Grey)

New research that appeared in the journal PNAS Early Edition has found that the year you were born can influence your risk for obesity. And while obesity is mitigated by multiple factors, such as genetic predisposition and dietary habits, the researchers have come to find that they can pinpoint the most unhealthy years to be born in from the data.

The researchers used data collected between 1971 and 2008 with participants ranging in age from 27 to 63.  The results proved fascinating.  People born before 1942 are less likely to be affected by a variant of the gene linked to obesity, when compared to people who were born later. 

"We found that the correlation between the best known obesity-associated gene variant and body mass index increased significantly as the year of birth of participants increased" lead author James Niels Rosenquist, from Massachusetts General Hospital, says.

Researchers examined the relationship between the participants' body mass index, measured eight times during the study period, and the FTO gene variants they inherited. Although other studies have already reported the association of the FTO variant and BMI, these studies focused only on participants born in later years.  This study is the first to link a person's birth year to an increased risk of obesity.

There was no correlation found between the obesity risk gene variant and BMI for those born before 1942.  However, the correlation for participants born after 1942 was twice as strong as reported in previous studies.

Researchers were quick to point out that our genes are not the only cause of the dramatic rise in obesity among adults and children.  After World War II, society steadily became more reliant on technology rather than physical labor for the production of goods and services.  This shift in lifestyle, along with the increasingly availability of high calorie processed foods, are the most likely contributors to the environmental effects of obesity.

Obesity has steadily been on the rise over the last several decades and now more than one-third of adults in the United States are considered obese.  Obesity causes many health conditions, such as heart disease, stroke, diabetes and even some types of cancers.  The medical cost for obesity was estimated to be $147 billion in 2008 and has been steadily rising each year.

This latest link provides scientists new insights into how to fight the rising obesity rates to create a much healthier society.  While learning how are genes are putting at risk, researchers still encourage everyone to learn what and when to eat and to engage in healthy exercise on a regular basis to fight the rising trend of obesity.

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