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Lessen the Chances

Even though researchers have tied certain gene variants to obesity risk, there are steps people can take through diet and exercise to minimize that risk, the Washington Post reports.

"I like to say that obesity is 80 percent genetic and 100 percent environmental," Philip Smith from the National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases tells the Post. "You won't become obese unless you overeat."

The Post notes that efforts to find genes involved in obesity began about 30 years ago and have tied variants in the FTO gene to a 20 percent to 30 percent increase risk of obesity, though  a number of other variants have more modest effects. Harvard T. H. Chan School of Public Health's Frank Hu tells the Post that because there are so many variants linked to obesity risk, "it is virtually impossible for someone to not carry any of these variants."

But, Hu and his colleagues have found that the behavior of people with risk-increasing variants is still important, the Post says. They found that people with genetic predisposition to becoming obese were more likely to gain weight if they ate fried foods frequently, as compare to people with the same genetic predisposition who rarely ate fried foods.

"Our findings indicate that genetic risk of obesity can be mitigated by simply changing an eating habit," he tells the Post.