Are fat people just lazy? Or is it in their genes?
Let's look at an unlikely place for the answer: an AA meeting. If you get up and say "My name is Jane, and I'm not really an alcoholic, I don't drink that much..." they throw you out. They welcome you back, once you say "My name is Jane and I'm an alcoholic". The same should be true for fat people. And I'm using this politically incorrect term deliberately. Because unless you wake up to the reality, you won't be able to change that reality.
AA have long ago realized that fact. And they have a 50% long-term success rate. That is, half the alcoholics who join AA stay dry for the rest of their lives. That's way more than what public health, clinical and commercial weight loss programs achieve with obese participants. We are happy if 10% of those who enter these programs achieve a 10% weight loss AND keep it for more than 2 years. It's that bad. Is it because of the genes? A study published recently in Nature Genetics, might supply another excuse to some overweight people. But before we look at this study, let's look at some other facts first.
One thing we all know for sure: if you are overweight, you obviously have taken in more calories than you have expended. Over quite some time, because it takes a while to accumulate all those energy reserves on your waist and hips. Boils down to one of the tenets of a universal law of physics that says: Energy can neither be destroyed nor miraculously created. Not even on your hips.
Now I know all the objections raised by so many overweight people, like "But, I hardly eat anything. How can I be fat? Even my friends say, from what you eat nobody can get fat." Believe me, I've heard them all. And my heart sinks, when I do, because I know there goes the hopeless case. The Jane who goes to AA and tells them she is different. The study published in Nature Genetics might just deliver her the next excuse. Not because the researchers tell her so, but because some media genius might just read it the wrong way. As they often do. So, let's look a what the researchers say.
The researchers conducted a meta-analysis of some 14 genome wide association studies involving altogether 14,000 children, one third of which were obese. They found 7 genetic markers which correlated with obesity and which also turned out to correlate with obesity in adults. The beauty of looking at genetics in kids is, that they haven't been exposed to decades of lifestyles which may obscure such links.
So, the results clearly point into the direction of some genetic signature predisposing a person to become obese. But having this signature doesn't mean you'll inevitably become obese. Because most kids who have the signature are not obese. It's only that this signature shows up a little more often in the obese kids than in their non-obese peers. And there is one more thing, you need to keep in mind. Over the past 20 years the human genetic make-up hasn't changed at all. But the obesity rate in US kids has. In fact it has tripled during that period. And health behavior has changed, too. And so did our environment.What makes me always frustrated in all this debate about genes vs. environment vs. behavior is my scientist colleagues' and the media's inability to educate their audience about the complete picture. Genes make up the blueprint to your organism. True. But they don't make that organism. Genes make proteins, but whether they make them or whether they are silenced into not making them, that depends on epigenetics, on the interaction with your environment, and on your behavior, which again is influenced by all the others. It is a very complex relationship, and I'm afraid, genetics will not help us, to solve the obesity epidemic. But neither will the stigmatization of the obese.
What we need, is a way to help those who recognize their fatness as a resolvable reality, resolve it. That's why I'm working on the GPS tochronic health, because I know that once the health behaviors put you on track to chronic health and longevity, your overweight problem will resolve automatically. As a side effect. But only if the obese person works with us.
So did that answer the question? You decide for yourself. PrintPDF