Fat genes

I’ve talked about “fat genes” before. And, coming from a long line of overweight people myself, it’s a subject I’ve taken a great deal of interest in. Which is why a recent online debate at the British Medical Journal caught my attention.

Timothy Frayling, Professor of Human Genetics at the University of Exeter, insists that DNA variations are driving the obesity crisis. Genetic factors can exert an influence as high as 70 percent, he says.

But John Wilding, Professor of Medicine at the University of Liverpool, blames the environment. Changes in technology and the food industry have all but guaranteed a gluttonous, lazy lifestyle. And that, he insists, is what’s really making people fat.

My two cents? This is a fascinating discussion, no doubt about it. But at the end of the day, the why doesn’t really matter as much as the how.

When it comes to fat, everybody’s got an excuse. I’m big boned… I have my mother’s thighs… everyone in my family eats this way.

I’ve heard them all. And I’ve used half of them myself, too. Before I realized decades ago that junk food doesn’t have to control your life, even when you’re surrounded by it. And being lean and healthy is possible for everyone–even people who’ve been dealt a “big” genetic hand.

The fact of the matter is, it’s entirely possible to overcome a genetic tendency towards obesity. With some truly simple steps, no less.

And if more people don’t start following them, the obesity epidemic–and Americans’ waistlines–will only get bigger.

“Are the causes of obesity primarily environmental? No.” BMJ 2012; 345: e5844
“Are the causes of obesity primarily environmental? Yes.” BMJ 2012; 345: e5843