In a new study out of the Archives of Internal Medicine investigators discovered that even people with extra copies of the “fat mass and obesity” genes called FTO did NOT get fatter if they were active throughout the day. In other words, a so-called genetic predisposition to obesity was effectively avoided when the owners of the so-called defective genes were active four to five hours a day doing low-level aerobic stuff. And it didn’t have to be much: brisk walking, housecleaning and gardening were sufficient. Just like Grok did in the original Primal Blueprint. 900 calories day of this was plenty.
I haven’t seen the whole study – just an abstract, but a quote from one of the authors interviewed on ScienceDaily.com cracked me up when he said, “Our study shows that a high level of physical activity can ‘level the playing field,’ equalizing the risk of obesity between those who have copies of the FTO gene variant and those who don’t.” Which basically means that even if you are predisposed to being obese, if you move around a lot all the time you won’t be quite so predisposed. They paid how much to find this out?
Interestingly, the authors also opined that obesity within the Amish (and the US in general) was related to lack of activity and a high-fat diet. There was no recognition that the Amish have a predominantly grain-based diet and that much of the obesity that does occur within the non-active Amish was likely due to the high carbs. Sufficient activity can prevent weight gains even in the face of a high carb diet (I ate 1,000 grams a day when I ran and I stayed skinny). We know from our basic MDA science that activity helps increase insulin sensitivity (a good thing) even when the diet is high in carbs.
For those who saw my FOX News piece earlier this week wherein I said that 80 percent of your fat loss results will come from how you eat, note that I said you still have to exercise and that low-level aerobic work was better than “chronic cardio.” Also note that I was discussing how to lose fat once you have gained it. If you are Amish and are active all your life, it may happen – even if you have the FTO gene – that you never accumulate much fat because you manage your insulin production and burn off both stored glycogen and fats through your daily low-level activity.
But for me, the real take home message is once again that no matter how “doomed” you may feel because of a family history of obesity, diabetes, heart disease, arthritis or cancer, you have the absolute ability to determine whether or not those genes get turned on or off or the degree to which they get expressed or even the degree to which other genes interfere with them. It’s all about the signals. And the irony is that all the lifestyle behaviors in the Primal Blueprint will provide signals that favor health over sickness whether you have those “defective” genes or not. Having those genes simply raises a red flag for you that says that you – more than most – need to pay strict attention to eating and moving Primally. Of course, there’s no guarantee that the rest of us are immune either. Genes only turn on or off based on the signals you give them. Bottom line: everyone benefits from living Primally.
Mark Sisson is the founder of Mark’s Daily Apple, godfather to the Primal food and lifestyle movement, and the New York Times bestselling author of The Keto Reset Diet. His latest book is Keto for Life, where he discusses how he combines the keto diet with a Primal lifestyle for optimal health and longevity. Mark is the author of numerous other books as well, including The Primal Blueprint, which was credited with turbocharging the growth of the primal/paleo movement back in 2009. After spending three decades researching and educating folks on why food is the key component to achieving and maintaining optimal wellness, Mark launched Primal Kitchen, a real-food company that creates Primal/paleo, keto, and Whole30-friendly kitchen staples.