You’ll be pleased to know that your genes are not your destiny! Genes may co-determine some health issues such as who becomes obese, but our environment is what determines how many of us become obese.
Epigenetics – everything we do, and everything we eat, our environment: the physical, social, political, and economic surroundings are the things that influence how much we eat, what we eat and how active we are.
These environmental influences can make it easier for people to overeat, and harder for people to get enough physical activity, and this has played a key role in triggering the increase of excess weight and obesity in our population.
Obesity is both hereditary and predisposes us to many diseases and, it is worth noting that more than 1,000 people per week die from obesity related conditions. A current Australian figure shows that approximately 63% of adults are overweight or obese, and 25% of children.
Hereditary factors are a major player in obesity, with experts saying genetics are responsible for at least 50% of all obesity cases. Obesity is often a genetic disorder and needs to be looked at and treated the same as diabetes, heart disease or any other genetic-related diseases.
There is a wide range of evidence suggesting that people who have a variation in a gene called FTO are more likely to be obese. However, until now it has been unclear why this may be the case.
However, without getting bamboozled with the science, there is also growing evidence that dietary habits interact with genes, coming back to the epigentic story. A 2014 study found that consumption of fried food could interact with genes related to obesity influencing their behaviour and the role they played in the body in metabolising fat. This emphasises the importance of a healthy diet in individuals genetically predisposed to obesity….in fact…all of us will benefit from healthy diet choices!
Having a genetic variant that predisposes people towards overeating is not the same thing as causing people to overeat. None of us are entirely controlled by our genes, willpower and attitude play a huge part too. Both dietary changes and a decent level of exercise are two essential actions that people must undertake to lose weight.
The debate on genetics and obesity continues, but experts agree exercise and a healthy diet are important, no matter what your genetic make-up.
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Choquet, H, 2011, Genetics of Obesity: What have we learned? Available at: http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3137002/
Locke A, 2015, Genetic studies of body ass index yield new insights for obesity biology. Available at: http://www.nature.com/nature/journal/v518/n7538/full/nature14177.html
Lyon H, 2005, Genetics of common forms of obesity: a brief overview. Available at: http://ajcn.nutrition.org/content/82/1/215S.full