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35 Percent of Mexican Americans Genetically Predisposed for Obesity: Study

May 22, 2013 08:55 AM EDT

About 35 percent of Mexican-Americans have genetic factors that are associated with a higher risk for obesity, a new study has found.

Obesity has been linked with a higher risk of chronic conditions such as heart disease, diabetes, stroke, arthritis and even some cancers. According to estimates by Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, a third of all people living in the U.S. are obese.

The present study on Mexican-American youth was conducted by a researcher from University of Illinois and included 251 students from Universidad Autónoma de San Luis Potosί. The study participants were between 18 and 25 years and were tested for risk alleles on the FTO gene, which is a risk factor for obesity and larger waist circumference.

"The students who inherited genetic risk factors from both parents were already 15½ pounds heavier and 2 inches bigger around the waist than those who hadn't. They also had slightly higher fasting glucose levels," said Margarita Teran-Garcia, a U of I professor of food science and human nutrition, according to a news release.

In the study, 15 percent of the participants had inherited a risk factor for obesity from both parents (they carried two copies of the allele). About 20 percent carried one of the risk alleles, while 65 percent had no such risk allele for obesity.

Teran-Garcia said that being aware of genetic risk factors can enable youngsters to manage their lifestyle, to lower the risk of the condition. Eating healthy food and exercising regularly can help them maintain a healthy weight. "These good habits (healthy eating and exercising) are especially important for young people who have a genetic risk for obesity," Teran-Garcia added.

The study is published in the Open Journal of Genetics.                 

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