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For generations, we’ve understood the concept of “the fat gene.” Obesity runs in families, after all, and if Mom and Dad are both heavy, there’s little you can do about it. But emerging science says that’s not so. In fact, what we’re learning now is that weight gain is caused not by genetics but by epigenetics—basically, the science of how genes are turned on and off by different environmental factors, including stress, chemical exposure, and, yes, diet.

study in the journal Advanced Nutrition reported that obese and diabetic people have a different pattern of epigenetic markers than those who are not obese or diabetic. Simply put, their fat genes have been tripped.

“What you eat, and don’t eat, can influence which genes are turned on and when,” says Kevin L. Schalinske, Ph.D., professor in the Department of Food Science and Human Nutrition at Iowa State University. “Eating the wrong foods, deficiencies in the diet, and lifestyle choices like smoking, can turn things on.”

Excerpted from Eat This, Not That!

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