Previous research has linked something called the FTO gene to obesity, but researchers didn’t know how exactly the gene caused people to gain weight. So for this study, researchers tested 359 people for the FTO gene and then measured their levels of ghrelin—an appetite-stimulating hormone—both before and after a test meal.
Pre-meal, everyone’s ghrelin levels were about the same. But after the meal, the people without the FTO gene saw a much bigger dip in their ghrelin levels. What’s more, ghrelin levels rose back to their pre-meal level much more quickly for people who had the FTO gene.
When your body functions normally, it stops making ghrelin after you eat because there’s no longer any reason for you to feel hungry. But this research suggests that the FTO gene tells your body to keep producing the hormone anyway, says study author Rachel Batterham, PhD, head of obesity and bariatric services at the University College London Hospitals.
Unless you undergo genetic testing, it’s impossible to know for sure if you have the FTO gene. But even if you do have it, that doesn’t mean you’re doomed to be overweight.
If you feel like you’re hungry 24/7, try eating more lean protein and dedicating more time to aerobic exercise, suggests Batterham. Previous research has shown that both strategies are effective ways to reduce ghrelin levels. Still feel like you’re starving all the time? Try these four easy ways to keep cravings under control.