British Journal of Nutrition

Research Article

Energy balance and weight regulation: genetics versus environment

Eric Ravussina1 c1 and Clifton Bogardusa1

a1 Eli Lilly and Co., Clinical Diabetes and Nutrition Section, NIDDK, Phoenix, AZ 85016, USA


The prevalence of obesity is reaching epidemic proportions in many industrialized countries. There is growing evidence that, even if the trigger of this epidemic is found in changes in the environment, genes are interacting with the environment to cause weight gain. Studies of twins reared apart indicate that approximately two-thirds of the variability in BMI is attributed to genetic factors. From prospective studies in Pima Indians we can ascribe 12 % of the variability in BMI to metabolic rate, 5 % to fat oxidation, and another probable 10 % to the level of spontaneous physical activity. These data indicate that at least 40 % of the variability in BMI is related to genetic factors involved in the regulation of food intake and/or volitional activity. This indicates that the most likely successful therapy for obesity may target pathways of the regulation of food intake. Similarly, an environment favouring engagement in physical activity should be promoted.


c1 *Corresponding author: E. Ravussin, fax +1 317 276 9574, email