Exercise can help offset weight gain even for people with obesity-related genes, according to new research.

In a collaborative effort, researchers from the University of North Carolina Chapel Hill, the University of Copenhagen, and other institutions, analyzed 60 previous studies to understand how physical activity and obesity genes work together to influence weight gain. They found that exercise can reduce the effects of the most-well known obesity-associated gene, called the FTO gene, by about 30 percent. This work confirms previous findings that conclude physical activity is still beneficial even for people with genetics that predispose them to weight gain.

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The meta-analysis included more than 200,000 individuals, who were categorized as either active or inactive, and screened for about 2.5 million genetic variants. The researchers then used this data to correlate it with specific measures of obesity, including body mass index, waist circumference, and waist-to-hip ratio.

“Moreover, our study revealed 11 completely new obesity genes, suggesting that in future studies, accounting for physical activity and other important factors could boost the search for new obesity genes,” said study author Mariaelisa Graff, in a press release.

Their analysis suggests that even more interactions exist between genes and physical activity, but more comprehensive studies need to be done to identify them, the authors note in the paper, published in PLOS Genetics. They suggest future studies should include improved analytical methods.

“A weakness of our study was that the participants self-reported their physical activity habits rather than being surveyed objectively. To identify more genes whose effects are either dampened or amplified by physical activity, we need to carry out larger studies with more accurate measurement of physical levels,” said Graff.

In 2007, a variation of the FTO gene was identified as being a risk factor for obesity. This discovery prompted many researchers to conduct studies to better understand the function of FTO. Research revealed the gene has a large effect on controlling energy expenditure and eating behavior. These gene variants are fairly common and put people who have them at a 20 to 30 percent higher risk of obesity than people who don’t carry them, according to Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health.

Although the gene receives the most attention for its obesity-related effects, other research has found it may affect brain structure and put individuals at a higher risk for Alzheimer’s disease. A 2010 study of healthy individuals, between 55 and 90 years old, found those who carried a variant of the FTO gene had less brain tissue in their frontal and occipital lobes than elderly people who didn’t carry the gene. A reduced brain volume increases a person’s risk for Alzheimer’s disease because it lessens the amount of brain reserve a person has, one of the study authors told Reuters.

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