LUBBOCK, Texas, Sept. 8 (UPI) -- Although theories abound on the connection between genetics and obesity, researchers found in a recent study that people who believe that weight is outside their control tend to have poorer health due to making less healthy diet and lifestyle choices.
Previous studies have suggested genetics and ancestry can influence whether people become obese. In many of those cases, however, risk factors can be overcome through people's actions in their food choices and exercise.
"If an individual believes weight to be outside of the influence of diet and exercise, she or he may engage in more behaviors that are rewarding in the short term, such as eating unhealthful foods and avoiding exercise, rather than healthful behaviors with more long-term benefits for weight management," researchers wrote in the study.
Researchers at Texas Tech University analyzed medical and self-reported data on 4,166 men and 4,655 women collected between 2007 and 2010 as part of the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey.
Researchers found that as people aged, belief that DNA determined their weight and that it was unchangeable was associated with less exercise and more unhealthful eating -- both of which were associated with poor physical health. They also noted that as people got older, belief that their weight could not be altered was linked to eating more frozen meals, restaurant meals and so-called "ready-to-eat" meals.
Studies have found genetics can influence weight, though researchers note they cannot be sure how many cases of obesity can be attributed to genes.
In one recent study, researchers found an alteration to genes that help control appetite, insulin and other hormones which can increase the risk factor for obesity and diabetes.
Another found the eating habits in previous familial generations can have an effect on how the body processes food, leading to obesity even when a person is eating a "normal" diet.
Still, at least one study found that genetic predispositions to obesity can be cut in half by walking for about an hour a day.
"Although some popular press and nonscholarly sources have claimed that weight is largely unchangeable, the relationship between this belief and objective measures of health remains unclear," the Texas Tech researchers wrote. "By fighting the perception that weight is unchangeable, health care providers may be able to increase healthful behaviors among their patients."
The study is published in Health Education and Behavior.