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LIVE FROM THE HEADLINES

New Study Finds 'Coach Potato' Gene

Aired July 15, 2003 - 19:45   ET

THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.

ANDERSON COOPER, CNN ANCHOR: All right, if you're like me, your idea of a good workout is flexing your pecs while trying to open a package of Twinkies without damaging the moist, tender goodies within. Not that I even have pecs.
For too long, the alternative -- the alternate lifestyle of me and my fellow couch potatoes has been portrayed as a moral failing -- for too long, I tell you. But a recent "Wall Street Journal" article cites new research that says our internal genes may be the reason we keep our external jeans parked on the Barca-Lounger.

And joining us now is our unashamedly active medical correspondent, Dr. Sanjay Gupta.

I'm not bitter, Dr. Gupta.

SANJAY GUPTA, CNN MEDICAL CORRESPONDENT: Twinkies, eh?

COOPER: Sure. Hey, I'll take any -- You know, Oreos has this new -- Well, anyway, I won't even go into it.

Is this really true? Can there be a laziness gene?

GUPTA: Well, there is some preliminary research now actually looking at this very issue. And since the human genome has been mapped, now, people have been looking at the genome for all sorts of excuses, if you will, for different things, and this may be yet another one of them.

But the real question here, I think, is, can genetics somehow explain why some people are more likely to benefit from exercise than other people? And I think there's some real value there to possibly exploring that a little bit further.

There are clearly people who you sort of look enviously over. Even as they're opening Twinkies, they seem to build pecs. But there are other people, no matter how much exercise they do, they don't seem to lose an inch. And I think genetics may be a part this, along with a lot of other things, environment, dietary (UNINTELLIGIBLE)...

COOPER: So there's some people may just develop faster or be more prone to develop muscles than other people?

GUPTA: That's right. And I think from a physical standpoint, that's true, and also from a health standpoint it's important as well. There are groups of people, I think you could say sort of across the board, people who exercise are probably going to be healthier than people who don't.

But there are some people who, no matter how much you exercise, they're considered nonresponders. Their cholesterol doesn't seem to go down, they don't seem to build muscle, they don't seem to fix their diabetes, all sorts of things like that. And no matter how much they exercise, they don't seem to derive the benefit.

And there appears to be a genetic sort of key in that.

COOPER: I'm a nonresponder.

GUPTA: All right, forever now known as (UNINTELLIGIBLE).

COOPER: Exactly, Anderson Nonresponder Cooper. Well, doesn't this mean, though, that, I guess, you know, a trainer, if you can afford one, would be able to tailor an exercise program to us nonresponders?

GUPTA: I don't think that's too far-fetched. I think at some point, that might be exactly the thing, to specifically tailor an exercise program to best enhance those things that you're most genetically predisposed to. That's sort of a mouthful.

But basically, your genes are going to say that you're better at some things than you are at others, and you're more likely to draw a benefit. You may be more likely to draw a benefit from anaerobic activity such as lifting weights than other people would, in which case, you know, your trainer might want to focus more on that.

That's a ways off, that's a long ways off still. But I think this -- again, this mapping of the human genome opens up all sorts of different possibilities.

COOPER: And all sorts of possible excuses for not having to go to the gym.

GUPTA: Can't use it as an excuse.

COOPER: This has given me, like, oh, like 10 new excuses. I mean, I'm sorry, I'm a nonresponder. I just can't go today.

GUPTA: (UNINTELLIGIBLE).

COOPER: Dr. Gupta, thanks very much.

GUPTA: Good seeing you. Take care.

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