Gransnet forums


Is obesity genetic or environmental?

(26 Posts)
Nanadogsbody Thu 11-Oct-12 07:58:45

The 'civilised' world is getter fatter. is this because we have instant access to cheap, calorie-laden food or are some individuals genetically programmed to need to eat more?
Timothy Frayling, Professor of Human Genetics at the University of Exeter thinks that genetic factors are the main driver for obesity in today's environment.
But John Wilding, Professor of Medicine at the University of Liverpool believes that changes in our environment are responsible for increasing obesity.
Could they both be correct? hmm

JessM Thu 11-Oct-12 08:04:13

They could both be correct and there is emerging evidence that imbalances in gut bacteria, caused by modern life, may also play a part.

Bags Thu 11-Oct-12 08:09:16

DH keeps blethering on about the insulin/blood sugar balance as being significant in the obesity 'epidemic' of the western world. This, he says, is affected by the typical high carb diet of modern times, as opposed to what is supposed to have been the higher protein/higher fat/higher fibre diet of our hunter gatherer ancestors. At least, that is my (limited) understanding of the issue.

Nanadogsbody Thu 11-Oct-12 08:18:49

Yes, granted but what about 'free will'? Are some people so ruled by their genetic make up that they cannot control their appetite? And are these the ones who in past times were more programmed to survive famine. Or are they 'good doers' ie able to survive on less food and therefore in times of plenty more prone to obesity.
There is statistically significant evidence from 'warrior races ' eg the Maoris that the latter might be true.

Bags Thu 11-Oct-12 08:35:06

Questions, jess: which part(s) of modern life are most supposed to so adversely affect the gut bacteria as to cause such an imbalance? How likely is it that a significantly large proportion of the population is going to be affected by it.

Answer to second depends to some extent on answer to first.

I think.

JessM Thu 11-Oct-12 08:46:54

Well Bags antibiotics for one. Will dig out some links later, but I must get on and do some tasks.

Gagagran Thu 11-Oct-12 09:00:52

I have long thought that obesity must have a genetic factor - and quite a large one. Looking at my own family and going back 6 generations the same body type is easily recognised - solid and heavy bodies. By today's BMI standards all would be classed as obese or morbidly obese.

Yet there are many examples of lifespans of 93,95 and 85+ years and no real examples of the type of diseases which obesity is supposed to cause. We come from active and healthy stock and this is the same with the latest generation.

Nanadogsbody Thu 11-Oct-12 09:11:33

Interesting gagagran. I've worked with horses for much of my life and I see this in different breeds. We call horses that put on weight easily 'good doers' and their food had to be strictly rationed. We often put these on poor or bare pasture or else they will eat themselves ill.
Then there are those who need plenty of food if they are just to keep the weight on. And in between are the rest of us them.

Butternut Thu 11-Oct-12 09:24:46

Yes, I believe they do both play a part in the increase of obesity. The changing environment - the food industry(and successive governments involvement in that)/food culture, medicine and lifestyle - has engendered a slow and gradual impact upon genes, which is becoming more and more apparent in the present, than say, 50 years ago.

Lilygran Thu 11-Oct-12 09:40:28

What Gagagran says sounds familiar to me. We have fat and thin family members in all the generations I've known and I see in my grandchildren (all of whom are healthily thin) the same differences in body type. However, my plump Granny made it to 99 and my mother is 98. My plump and lovely MiL managed 89. All of them made it in good health physically and only my mother is suffering mentally. I've always been a 'good doer' but about twelve years ago, I started to find I was losing the struggle and was found to have an under-active thyroid. Perhaps in previous generations, if you didn't seek out medical help, all the diseases associated with obesity were simply not recorded? Or treated. And some people survived.

Nanadogsbody Thu 11-Oct-12 09:49:54

But just because food is there, easily available, do we have to eat it?
There is a gene, or set of genes, that controls appetite. There is that old chestnut 'there were no fat people in...' So are we controlled by our genes?

Nanadogsbody Thu 11-Oct-12 09:52:54

lilygran thyroid activity is a real example of what we cannot control sad

AlieOxon Thu 11-Oct-12 10:30:38

How about the environmental impact of advertising in the 'advanced' world?
(Example - 'chips, wanderful chips' at the time of the attempts to improve school meals.....)

Nanadogsbody Thu 11-Oct-12 10:42:41

This was an article from 4 years ago. Things have not improved despite efforts by various bodies (!) Diabetes is clearly on the rise but can we afford to keep treating the problem and would it not be cost effective to prevent this in the first place?

vampirequeen Thu 11-Oct-12 11:05:52

I think some of us are more fuel efficient than others. I have never been thin. Losing weight is a nightmare as I have to eat so llittle.

My eldest daughter takes after me whilst my youngest can eat all day, do no exercise and not gain weight.

whitewave Thu 11-Oct-12 11:10:31

I take after an Aunt - I am so similar in build and stature and she was also somewhat large! She also had a real zest for life and enjoyed everything including food - not sure about the zest but I do enjoy planning and cooking so much. Sooo wish I could do a weekly bake of cakes and pies but have to restrain myself - whereas my Aunt made pasties and saffron buns and cake and enjoyed them all with a dollop if cream where appropriate.

gracesmum Thu 11-Oct-12 11:17:28

I hope I am not being unfair to anybody but I am also thinking "internal and external locus of responsibility "(?) - is it others or is it me? When people blame external factors for their own actions, I do wonder hmm I am not talking about the effects of thyroid on metabolism or even with metabolic disorders (my mother lived in Germany during the Second World War and existed on a very low calorie intake, with the result that when she could eat "properly" she put on weight and had a lifelong struggle with her weight) - just people who are unwilling to take responsibility for their own actions - and consequently their own health.

vampirequeen Thu 11-Oct-12 13:45:24

I can be thin but living on 1000 calories a day or less for the rest of my life just doesn't appeal to me.

tiggercat Thu 11-Oct-12 14:54:01

vampirequeen I am the same.

Nanadogsbody Thu 11-Oct-12 16:56:54

But vamps and tigger doesn't the prospect of diabetes etc worry you?

JessM Fri 12-Oct-12 21:32:47

As promised, some links to show the interesting lines of research on gut bacteria and obesity. So tendencies in families could be because they share the same bacteria, rather than same genes.
I also read something today about someone doing research into obesity and one of the adenoviruses (one of the cold viruses) that can slow metabolism it seems.
But these interesting scientific theories do not alter the fact that there seems to be an epidemic of obesity, including young women in large numbers. It is really rather recent. And an environment that is awash with chips, processed foods, confectionery, sweet drinks and white wine is probably the main reason. Combined with very little exercise being taken. It is serious threat to their health and to the finances of the NHS.
I heard an interesting way of describing Type 2 diabetes this week : You are not making enough insulin for the size of your body.

Joan Sat 13-Oct-12 03:59:42

Obesity must have a genetic component, but regardless of that, eating too much of the wrong thing can cause obesity whatever the genetic make up.

I see obese people in the mall drinking sugar-loaded soft drinks, and eating high carb junk. How can their obesity NOT be caused, or made worse by their diet?

I am inclined to be fat, and am currently size 16 or 18 depending on the brand. I was getting fatter since retirement: before that I was size 14, but now I have cut out carbs, especially food made from grain, such as bread, and also sugar, and I am slowly losing the excess. I eat as much meat, fish, eggs, saturated fat, butter, olive oil, dairy, and vegetables as I like. I eat fruit too, but not TOO much as it has too much sugar in it. I never go hungry.

I avoid processed food and anything that has to be made in a factory, hence butter not marge. I try to avoid chemicals and additives. Just keeping it old fashioned and natural seems to work. I'm 67 and in great health. Since eating like this for the last few months I have become more cheerful and less prone to depression too. My husband refuses to change his eating habits, and he is somewhat depressed, has insomnia, and often feels unhealthy. However, he has taken up one good habit of drinking lots of water, and this is bringing his weight down.

Some lucky people can eat all the fattening junk they like and still stay slim, but there aren't too many of them. Most of us pay for it if we indulge in the wrong stuff.

Bags Sat 13-Oct-12 07:31:11

DH made the same change to his diet as you have, joan, and he has also noticed a difference. He is losing excess weight and feels better. He started this after reading The Primal Blueprint by Mark Sisson.

I don't avoid carbs, but I'm a grazer and eat frequently rather than having large meals with long time gaps between them.

Joan Sat 13-Oct-12 07:49:37

Here is an article about my sister's journey to a primal diet.

She went on a lwo-carb cruise recently, and met quite a few writers on this subject.

Grannyknot Sat 13-Oct-12 08:06:05

Interesting article joan what a journey.