DNA Research Reveals a Fat-Burning Gene That Could Be Key to Weight Loss
Are you genetically predisposed to gain weight?
According to recent research, that may be the case—and if it really is your genetics, there are a few things you can do to slim down.
Over the last decade, genetics research has uncovered a gene called uncoupling protein 1 (UCP1) that influences the speed of your metabolism. Your UCP1 variant is one of the major genetic determinants of your body weight.
Here’s good news: recent studies suggest that you can turn on UCP1 through diet and lifestyle—and that, depending on which variant you have, activating UCP1 may be an effective way to lose weight.
UCP1: the Fat Burning Gene
UCP1 is an unusual gene. It lives in your brown adipose tissue, a special type of fat deposit that helps keep you warm.
Carrying normal white fat doesn’t burn many calories. But brown fat, ironically, can help keep you thin. Brown fat acts like an internal furnace—it helps regulate your body temperature by burning calories, which produces a lot of heat.
UCP1 determines how hot that furnace burns. Certain UCP1 variants cause your brown fat to be super-thermogenic—it burns more calories than usual, making it easier for you to stay thin regardless of what you eat.
But other UCP1 variants make your brown fat less active, predisposing you to gain weight.
The good news is that no matter what UCP1 variant you have, you can influence its level of activity—and according to recent research, ramping up UCP1 could help you lose weight.
Why Does UCP1 Make You Thin?
The most common variant of UCP1 is genotype A/A. It’s very efficient at regulating your body temperature, meaning it doesn’t burn a ton of excess calories.
For most of human history, that’s the UCP1 variant you wanted. Food was hard to come by, and having efficient UCP1 meant you burned just enough calories to keep warm without wasting precious fat stores. That meant you were less likely to starve.
Now, however, most people would rather have one of the other forms of UCP1. The other variants make you less efficient at regulating body temperature—you burn a lot more calories trying to keep warm, which means your resting metabolism is quite high, and you’re unlikely to gain weight.
Can You Activate UCP1 to Lose Weight?
Turning on your UCP1 gene can increase your metabolism—and if you have the A/A variant, it can be an especially powerful way to lose weight.
There are several things you can do to activate UCP1, including:
Cold exposure. When you decrease your body temperature, UCP1 turns on and activates your brown adipose tissue, burning extra calories (called thermogenesis) to keep you warm. Research has found that cold-induced thermogenesis can increase your metabolism by up to 280%, depending on your UCP1 genetics and other factors.
Diet. Different types of food can also activate UCP1—and again, the specifics depend on which variant of UCP1 you have. For example, a 2015 study found that people with the A/A variant burned more fat in response to ginger, while those with other UCP1 variants saw no change in their metabolism.
Exercise. A 2020 study found that exercise upregulates UCP1—and that not all exercise is created equal. Cardio was especially good at turning on UCP1. However, cardio isn’t necessarily your best bet for weight loss. Your genetics determine how you respond to exercise. If you want to figure out which type of workout suits you best, you may want to consider taking a genetic test.
Activating UCP1 can be a powerful way to get in shape, especially if you have certain genetic variants.
Trying to Lose Weight? Understanding Your Genetics Will Help
Over the years, researchers have identified a number of genes that affect body weight. Here are a few examples:
UCP1. As you read about above, UCP1 controls the rate at which your body burns fat.
MC4R. This gene controls how quickly you feel full while eating. If you’re in the 5% of people with a specific MC4R mutation, research shows that you may be prone to snacking throughout the day, consuming hidden calories that add up to extra pounds over time.
5HTTLPR. This gene controls the amount of serotonin your brain uses. Serotonin regulates your mood—and in about 20% of people, a 5HTTLPR mutation causes lower serotonin levels and increased cravings for comfort food.
There are many more examples of how your genetics affect your weight—whether directly, by controlling your metabolism, or indirectly, by influencing your behavior.
If you’re trying to lose weight, reading this may be frustrating. It can seem like your genetics controls you and like losing fat is impossible when you’re fighting against so many hidden factors contributing to your body weight
However, that couldn’t be further from the case. In fact, understanding your genetics—getting insight into all those hidden factors, and understanding how to manage or take advantage of them—is one of the best strategies you can use to lose weight.
Our DNA Weight Loss Program gives you a personalized weight loss plan based on your unique genes. We analyze 38 genetic reports and come back to you with an actionable regimen to help you get in shape, including the best diet for you, the best types of exercise for your genetics, behaviors that you may want to change (and professional guidance on how to change them), and more. If you’re looking for sustainable, long-term weight loss, working with your genetics is a great place to start.
Through a sample of your saliva, we are able to extract the DNA information we need to provide you with a customized DNA 360 Review.SCAN YOUR DNA NOW