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Clinical Studies and Practice

High genetic risk individuals benefit less from resistance exercise intervention



Genetic factors have an important role in body mass index (BMI) variation, and also likely have a role in the weight loss and body composition response to physical activity/exercise. With the recent identification of BMI-associated genetic variants, it is possible to investigate the interaction of these genetic factors with exercise on body composition outcomes.


In a block-randomized clinical trial of resistance exercise among women (n=148), we examined whether the putative effect of exercise on weight and dual-energy x-ray absorptiometry-derived body composition measurements differs according to genetic risk for obesity. Approximately one-half of the sample was randomized to an intervention consisting of a supervised, intensive, resistance exercise program, lasting 1 year. Genetic risk for obesity was defined as a genetic risk score (GRS) comprised of 21 single-nucleotide polymorphisms (SNPs) known to be associated with BMI variation. We examined the interaction of exercise intervention and the GRS on anthropometric and body composition measurements after 1 year of the exercise intervention.


We found statistically significant interactions for body weight (P=0.01), body fat (P=0.01), body fat % (P=0.02) and abdominal fat (P=0.02), whereby the putative effect of exercise is greater among those with a lower level of genetic risk for obesity. No single SNP appears to be a major driver of these interactions.


The weight-loss response to resistance exercise, including changes in body composition, differs according to an individual’s genetic risk for obesity.

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We thank the organizers and participants of the BEST study. The BEST Study was funded by National Institutes of Health (NIH) AR39939 and the 2005 Gatorade Sports Science Institute Student Grant Award. Calcium supplements and Scope mouthwash were donated by Mission Pharmacal and Proctor and Gamble, respectively. YCK was supported by NIH Grant K01DK095032. Additional funding for this study came from NIH grant R01AG027373.

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Klimentidis, Y., Bea, J., Lohman, T. et al. High genetic risk individuals benefit less from resistance exercise intervention. Int J Obes 39, 1371–1375 (2015).

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