You eat healthy. You exercise. Yet, the numbers on your scale just nudge their way up.

If you wonder why, researchers at the University of Virginia say genes may play a big part, and now, they’ve identified specific genes that may be making some people fat, and others that help people stay thin.

With more than 41 percent of Americans considered obese, it’s a critical question – when diet and exercise fail, what else can people do to get to a healthy weight?

“We really need to develop drugs that are safe and that can be used for the average person,” said Eyleen O’Rourke, Ph.D., professor of genomics at UVA Health.

Researchers at the University of Virginia have taken the first step by studying a tiny invertebrate, a worm called C. elegans (Caenorhabditis elegans), that has a very similar genetic makeup to humans.

Scientists have identified 14 genes that may put people at higher risk for gaining weight.

“So, if you eat the same as your cousin that doesn’t have that variant, you are more likely to become obese,” O’Rourke added.

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The researchers have also identified three gene variants that may do the opposite. People with these genes can eat more and maintain a healthy weight.