“It’s only been two hours since I last ate—now I’m hungry again!”
You’ve probably heard the line that obesity “runs in the family,” and that’s partly true. Your FTO gene is the one to blame.
Most obese men and women have been found to have a specific FTO gene variation, which tends to get passed down from generation to generation. However, it’s not so much that the FTO gene makes you gain weight—rather, carrying a particular variation of this gene predisposes you to crave food and get hungry more often. This is primarily due to ghrelin, or the hunger hormone.
Think of the difference this way: There are two types of people—those that eat to live, and those that live to eat. There are people who are perfectly fine eating three square meals a day for the rest of their lives. They look at food as a source of energy and nutrients, period. Those who have a specific FTO gene variation belong to the second group. They are those who go hungry at the mere suggestion or thought of food.
If you belong to this second group, you may think that there’s something wrong with you since you can’t seem to let your hunger pangs follow a regimented schedule. The usual predicament faced by those with a specific FTO gene is overeating during their limited mealtimes to compensate, defeating the very purpose of why they need to follow a diet or nutritional plan in the first place.
A high-fat, high-protein, and low-carb diet is not the best diet plan option for people with specific FTO gene variations, as it will leave them hungrier often (since our body burns carbs quicker than fats or protein).
People with high levels of the hunger hormone ghrelin are usually tagged as “emotional eaters”; as a result, they need more carbs. Taking a genetic test will let you know how much carbs you should be consuming in relation to fat and protein (factoring in your age, gender, height, and weight, of course).
There are other ways to mitigate hunger. First, realize that not all carbs are created equal. Instead of getting your carbs from white bread, pasta, and pastries, consider eating more nutrient-dense carbs such as sweet potatoes, chickpeas, whole wheat, and brown rice—in general, carb sources that are packed with more fiber. Additionally, up your water or liquid intake, and go for lean types of meat for your protein.
Instead of sticking to three meals daily, those who have two copies of the FTO gene are advised to opt for small frequent feedings (5-6 meals a day is recommended), observe a low-fat diet, and ideally adopt a sustainable diet. As much as possible, avoid fad or trial-and-error diets, else you’ll suffer from the metabolic repercussions of trying to stick to a strict, regimented diet.