Health myths: am I overweight because of my slow metabolism?

Whether we’re fat or thin, it’s all down to our genes – or at least that’s a claim that so many of us make. We examine the truth behind the myth

Benenden

So, is a slow metabolism to blame for being overweight or obese? ‘No is the short answer,’ says Dr Giles Yeo, director of genomics at the University of Cambridge Metabolic Research Laboratories. He explains that the larger a person is, the faster their metabolism. He likens it to the difference between a Range Rover and a Mini: the bigger car burns more fuel.

There are, however, differences between individuals that dictate their ability to lose weight. ‘For instance, some people are more fidgety than others, and use their hands more when they speak,’ says Dr Yeo. ‘They will burn a few more calories each day, which can make a big difference to their size over the course of a lifetime.’

There are some rare gene defects that can cause severe obesity, but of far greater relevance is that our genetic inheritance determines our place on the weight scale.

‘It’s a combination of about 100 genes that dictate whether we look more like Kate Moss or Brian Blessed,’ says De Yeo. ‘Given our basic make-up, we can decide what choices we make. It might be more difficult for some of us to lose weight, and keep it off, but it can be done. Sadly, it all boils down to eating too much.’

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  • Winston Smith

    I have Graves Disease and find it impossible to lose weight