Friday, December 18, 2009

Genetics Role in Obesity Minor, New Study Finds

A study published by The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition casts doubt on the importance of the contribution of genetic heritage to the growing incidence of obesity. The study suggests that as little as 1% of obesity may be due to genetic pre-disposition, with diet and lifestyle choices accounting for the rest. “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,” wrote Claude Bouchard from the Pennington Biomedical Research Center in Baton Rouge, Louisiana. “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.”

This is a good news/bad news situation, of course. On the plus side, the study seems to conclude that reducing obesity - which is implicated as a contributing factor in many chronic diseases like cancer, coronary disease and diabetes - is largely under our control. This would have a huge and positive impact on not only our health as a society but on the cost of our healthcare system, since the lion's share of the cost is a result of treating chronic illness (about 75% of 2007 US healthcare expenditures). The bad news is, of course, that we can't continue to blame our genes and delude ourselves that we cannot personally do anything about it.

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