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Study: Different Genes Affect Weight And Where Fat Is Stored

NEW YORK (CBSNewYork) -- Are you frustrated because you can't lose weight no matter how hard you try?

Or you do manage to lose weight and you still have a spare tire or saddle bags?

CBS2's Dr. Max Gomez reported Monday on a new study that says it's not all your fault; it's your genes.

We were always taught that a calorie does the same thing to everyone. Not so. It turns out we have genes that affect our overall weight and another set that determine where we store our fat.

Knowing those genes means doctors may actually be able to change our type and improve our health.

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Nadav Madanes isn't what you'd call obese or even all that overweight, but his doctor said he's pre-diabetic and needs to lose weight, especially in the common male problem area.

"It's here and here. It's frustrating," Madanes said, pointing to his stomach area.

It's a common complaint. Men tend to store their weight around their middle, the so-called "apple" shape, while women usually keep it on their hips and thighs, what's often called a "pear" shape.

But weight is weight, right?

Not so, says Dr. Dori Arad, director of the physiology lab at Mount Sinai St. Luke's. That belly fat is a bigger health risk.

"It's around your pancreas. It's around your liver. It's around your heart. It makes those organs not function very well," Dr. Arad said.

And it turns out it's genetics that determines both overall weight as well as where you put that weight.

"The genes that determine body size seem to act in the brain. They control hunger, satiety, rewards and will power," said Dr. Ruth Loos of Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai.

Even more important, Dr. Loos, an obesity researcher, has found the genes that determine where you store your fat. She's one of the authors of a major study in Nature Genetics that examined the genomes of more than 300,000 people and identified the variants that, in general, tend to make men apples and women pears.

But more importantly, knowing what each of those genes actually does could mean drugs that change our body type and our health risks.

"Such fat distribution goes from unhealthy to healthy, then maybe we can also reduce the risk of Type 2 diabetes, cardiovascular disease," Dr. Loos said.

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At least one such drug already exists and others are being searched for. Despite that you may have been born with certain genetic predispositions, that does not mean you're doomed to obesity, big hips or big bellies.

You can change your weight and body type. You just might have to work a little harder at it.

Genetics is not necessarily destiny.


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