Ask the Dietitians

Is Obesity Genetic?

Are some people genetically programmed for obesity?

Eat clean and get lean with our dietitians, Erin Macdonald and Tiffani Bachus. Find out when their new course, A Whole-Life Guide to Lasting Weight Loss, launches. Register now! 

With 35% of adults and 17% of children and adolescents estimated to be obese in the US today, this is a critically important question – one that scientists are still working to answer. It’s clear that genetic factors influence obesity risk, but how much? There are genes and genetic mutations that directly cause obesity, but these are relatively rare conditions that do not apply to most cases of obesity.

See also Custom Dieting Based on Genetics.

More common are genetic variations and mutations that predispose a person to obesity, such as the FTO genetic variation (also known as the fat mass and obesity gene). For most people, genetics is one factor among several that together can result in obesity. Environmental and lifestyle factors interact with genetic predisposition to increase an individual’s obesity risk.

If you’re wondering about your own genetic vulnerability, a family history of obesity is an indication of a possible genetic predisposition. Beyond heredity and genes, a healthy diet, regular exercise and managing stress can have a tremendous impact on weight management and avoiding obesity.

Registered dietitians Tiffani Bachus and Erin Macdonald are the co-founders and creators of, a website dedicated to promoting wellness and a healthy, balanced lifestyle.