Scientists say they have discovered the secret behind why some people are skinny while others pile on the pounds easily. Their work reveals newly discovered genetic regions linked to being very slim. The international team say this supports the idea that, for some people, being thin has more to do with inheriting a “lucky” set of genes than having a perfect diet or lifestyle. The study appears in PLOS Genetics.

In the past few decades, researchers have found hundreds of genetic changes that increase the chance of a person being overweight – but there has been much less focus on the genes of people who are thin. In this investigation, scientists compared DNA samples from 1,600 healthy thin people in the UK – with a body mass index (BMI) of less than 18 – with those of 2,000 severely obese people and 10,400 people of normal weight.

They also looked closely at lifestyle questionnaires – to rule out eating disorders, for example. Researchers found people who were obese were more likely to have a set of genes linked to being overweight. Meanwhile, people who were skinny not only had fewer genes linked to obesity but also had changes in gene regions newly associated with healthy thinness.

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