Weight Loss Myth #3

Ready to learn some more? Here’s installment #3 in our Weight Loss myths series. 2020 is the year to expand our minds and learn some hard truths about our bodies!

Myth #3: Obesity is genetic:  This is a touchy subject for some people.  Although we would like it to be true, it simply isn’t.  Now, that doesn’t mean that there isn’t a genetic component to having excess weight.  If your parents have obesity, you are definitely more likely to suffer with it yourself – but it’s not just because they passed along some obscure obesity gene. 

Placed in a poor food environment, some people are going to be more likely to accumulate excess weight than others. But, take those people out of the poor food environment and the problem is greatly diminished.  Think this through. Prior to the 1980’s, the rate of obesity in our country was steady. Year after year, about 13% of the population had obesity. Then, in the early 1980’s, the curve took a steep angle upward and has continued to rise. 

Currently, about 40% of Americans suffer from obesity. We cannot presume that prior to the 1980’s, the genetically lean people quit procreating and the people with obesity procreated a lot – thereby dramatically changing the genetic makeup of the population.  No! What changed was our food environment. People with similar genetics, habits and preferences tend to respond similarly to the environment they are in. Genetics definitely play a role but they aren’t everything.

Think about it like this: some people are more apt to become smokers and others aren’t.  Most people try tobacco at some point in their life. Most don’t become addicted. Someone with a genetic predisposition to tobacco abuse isn’t going to become a smoker without first being exposed to the substance several times. Some genetically susceptible people are going to deliberately avoid tobacco forever to prevent addiction.  Genetic susceptibility plus behavior. Some people can live in our current (poor) food environment and not develop obesity. Yet. Clearly more and more people are suffering from obesity each year (and the rate is rising faster than the population is growing), so for some people, there appears to be a longer delay from exposure to onset of symptoms.

It doesn’t mean that the current food environment is healthy for these lean people – it just means that many of them don’t currently suffer from excess weight.  And, keep in mind that some people deliberately live outside of our current food environment – whether because they were taught differently from childhood and that is their default – or they make a deliberate choice to eat something different than the standard American diet – but regardless of genetics, those people that live in a healthy food environment day after day, year after year, typically see radically different effects. Which should make us think long and hard about our current food environment and how we might improve it …

Tune in next week for yet another weight loss myth. And if we have your interest and you want to learn more about other topic related to the treatment of obesity, sign up for our newsletter. Until next week…

be strong – be healthy – be happy

Courtney Younglove, M.D.

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