Genetics and Obesity
Do you feel like
you eat less than your thinner friends while struggling to lose
a few pounds, BUT CAN'T? Do you wonder if the real problem might
be in your genes? Have you ever asked yourself the question,
I genetically obese?"
A gene is the basic unit of
heredity, found among DNA strands in our body, and responsible
for the identifying characteristics and individual differences
of our species. Simply put, our genes are in charge of who we
are and what we look like. For example, if your mother has red hair, chances
are you'll have red hair too.
We know that
obese children usually come from obese families and an overweight child will
most likely resemble one or more parents. If one of your parents is obese, you
have a 40% chance of becoming obese also. If both of your parents
are obese, your chances then increase to 80%.
Interest in the
possibility that our genes might make us fat developed after
studies were done to compare the food intake of mice and rats.
The Zucker rat, a species of rat that tends to be overly plump,
was compared with their thinner companions. Results showed that
the thinner rats ate the same amount of food as the Zucker rat,
and sometimes more, but remained thin. And so, the race was on to find
the fat gene!
has identified certain genes on chromosomes that can cause rare
disorders that lead to obesity, however, to date, a gene that causes obesity
in the general population has not been found. But, researchers continue
to believe that our fat is buried somewhere in our genetics.
And so, as theories progress, if it's not a gene that's producing
this up-and-coming generation of obese Americans, then could
it be a defective
In other words, no one is supposed to get fat by smelling an
apple pie, so perhaps there's an existing gene, one we already
know about, that's not working properly? Maybe, but a defective
gene that's producing those mounds of fat hasn't been found yet
feel the answer may be found elsewhere in the body, other than
in our genetics. Here are some of their theories:
Our Metabolism: Leptin is a naturally occurring hormone found
in fat tissue. After leptin was injected into a strain of obese
mice, they ate less food and lost weight. One U.S. company was
so excited about these findings that they purchased the rights
to a drug containing leptin. But the excitement was short-lived!
It was discovered that obese people are not leptin deficient
and may actually have more leptin in their tissues than lean
people. However, a leptin gene has been discovered and is currently
being studied are
(neuropeptide Y), found in the hypothalamus, the part of the
brain that regulates appetite, 5HT (5-Hydroxytryptamine)
produced in the brain and is similar to amphetamine-type drugs
like fenfluramine, CRF
(Corticotrophin Releasing Factor) also produced in the brain
that causes weight loss by reducing appetite, CCK (cholecystokinin) which helps to block food intake
and induce satiety, and bombesin which helps decrease appetite. These are just
a few to give you some idea of the amount of research that's
going on, but so far, nothing doing in the metabolism category.
Physical Activity: Studies show that obese people are less
active than thin people. Perhaps our fat bodies just need a little
and then we'd all slim down?
Environmental Factors: Our society evolves around food. Food is everywhere.
Research shows that when food is placed in front of people who
are not hungry, they will eat. In studies with thin rats, high
fat foods (candy, nuts, and meat) were made available 24 hours
a day. And what do you think happened? You guessed it! The thin
rats became fat rats! Could the solution be that simple? That
of us just need to stop eating so much?
The search continues
for the causes of obesity. But to date, there's no clear answer
yet to the question, "Am I genetically obese?"
has not made a discovery that will allow us to eat all we want and stay
thin, where does that leave
us overweight people who insist we should be able to do so?
waiting for the fat gene to be discovered in lieu of starting
a diet plan, you may have an eternal wait. It's possible that
the fat gene will never be found because there may not be such
a thing lurking around in our DNA. Although that may be good
news for the fad diet industry who have made billions of dollars
on our inability to decrease our food intake, it's gloomy news
for those of us who want to wolf down the high calorie, high
fat foods and then take a pill to make it all go away, and for
many of us following high protein fad diets who haven't figured
out yet that you can't
lose fat by eating fat!
And so, perhaps
the question is NOT,
I genetically obese?" The real question might be, "Do I look like
my mother because I eat like my mother?"
-Hypothyroidism is a disease of the
thyroid gland that causes weight gain. It's estimated that 3%
of the population have this disease. Hypothyroidism can be easily
diagnosed by a blood test.
-Dietary fat is not used as
energy. Instead, the fat you eat is metabolized directly back
to fat storage in the body. Body fat is used, or burned off,
as an alternate energy form when glucose or carbohydrates are
not available or during aerobic exercise. In other words, all
that fat from the butter, fried foods, and mayonnaise you're
eating goes right back to your body fat stores.
-If you're trying to lose
weight, avoid fad diet plans that advocate high protein, high
fat foods which are also high in cholesterol. Why? You may lose
weight on these plans if you decrease calories, but your LDL's
will increase putting you at increased risk for a heart attack.
Where do you get your nutrition
information? Most states now have licensure laws for Dietitians
and Nutritionists. Be sure your nutrition advisor is "Licensed"
by the State as a Licensed Dietitian (LD) or Licensed Nutritionist
(LN), or in states that don't have licensure laws, a Registered
Barbara Herondorf, L.D.
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