Weight Management – Looking Ahead

December 28, 2009 in Health Claims, Weight Management by Joyce Bunderson

Some voices in the diverse world of advising on weight management espouse genetic determinism – it is our genes, not our own choices that have made us obese. A sound new study disputes this. The authors of this study report that variations in genes for body mass index may be responsible for less than one percent of obesity. The article (Shengxu Li et al) and an editorial (Claude Bouchard) is posted to be published in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, (January 2010, Volume 91.)

Bouchard says in his editorial, “The obesity epidemic we are facing today unfolded over the past few decades and can clearly not be explained by changes in the frequency of risk alleles.”(Translation: possessing risky forms of the genes related to obesity doesn’t explain the obesity epidemic of recent decades.) “It is more likely due to a changing social and physical environment that encourages consumption and discourages expenditure of energy, behaviors that are poorly compatible with the genome that we have inherited.”

Bouchard goes on to say that a key unanswered question is “whether it will ever be possible to take advantage of the advances in our understanding of the genetic basis of obesity to identify the individuals at risk of becoming obese before they gain a large amount of body weight and adiposity.”

Those of us who are designed to caress and care for each little calorie as though we had to go into the wild to find out next morsel, should stop waiting for the magic weight-loss bullet. While genetics and nutritional science are finding out all that they can about obesity, we should recognize that choices are within our power now. The modern food environment and lack of mandatory exercise is tough to navigate, but we can choose to alter our food environment and habits, and if life does not force us to exercise as in past times, we can choose to do so. To believe that our genes predestine us be overweight or obese is a philosophy of despair that ignores the evidence. It requires a denial of the evidence that easy, available processed foods have replaced whole foods and home cooking over these decades, while vigorous physical work has been replaced by sedentary activities.

To increase our chance of living a healthy life, we need to start now to design an eating and exercise program that we can do, that we can stick with – it’s challenging, but not impossible.

Even the Breakfast fruit is turning red and green - 'tis the season.

Even the Breakfast fruit is turning red and green - 'tis the season.

Red and green added to hot cereal with blueberries.

Red and green added to hot cereal with wild blueberries.