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Genes and Obesity

Updated on October 30, 2012

Do you always blame your mother for your big thighs? Do you say that it's your dad's fault that you're big-boned? It's tempting to just blame our weight problems on our genes, but is there really any truth to the claims? Yes, there is a link between our genes and obesity. But that doesn't mean that we get to stop there, say it's not our fault and do nothing about it. Your genes may make it a little bit harder to lose weight than it is for the average person, but they don't make it impossible. So if you're suffering from obesity and you want to make a change, quit blaming your parents and start in on some action!

It IS true that genes play a role in obesity. There are certain disorders which are genetic such as Prader-Willi Syndrome and Bardet-Biedl Syndrome. These are disorders which lead to obesity which is not entirely under the control of the individual. It has also been found in recent years that certain hormones are produced and developed in the body in different ways among people of different sizes. Namely, ghrelin and leptin are weight loss hormones which must be balanced correctly in the body to prevent obesity. As studies about these hormones continue, it may be found that we can alter our genes to prevent hereditary obesity.

Genes are just one factor in obesity. Being overweight can be caused by a number of other things which are exacerbated by your "bad genes". You don't have any control over your genes but you do have some control over these other factors. Factors under your control include:

  • Diet. There is truth to that whole "you are what you eat" saying. If you give up on losing weight and just eat whatever you want, you're not helping yourself. Stick to a healthy diet if you want to fight the obesity in your genes.
  • Exercise. No matter how bad your genes are, if you improve your metabolism and burn fat through regular healthy exercise, you're going to lose weight.
  • What's around you. Your environment, your cultural beliefs and practices and even your income can all affect your weight. This is because these things affect the way that you eat, the way that you think about food and the food that you can purchase. Awareness of the effects of the things around you on your weight can help you to make better choices about how to interact with food and exercise in your every day life.

Knowing that you have the ability to minimize the effect of you "bad genes" on your weight isn't just important for you. If you have, or are planning to have, your own children, then you need to be aware of the lifestyle changes that can be made to prevent problems of this nature from hindering them. People who make these changes early on in life are much more successful at preventing obesity despite their genetic predisposition to it than are those people who try to change their habits after the problem has already occurred.


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