Obesity and Your Genes

Obesity and Your GenesEveryone knows people who can eat whatever they like, whenever they like and never gain weight. On the other hand you maybe someone who just looks at food and gains a pound.  Why is life so unfair?  You eat the same things that others eat but your body stores the extra calories instead of burning them off quickly. 

Your genetic makeup is the reason. Genes give the body responding instructions. Studies of resemblances and differences among family members offer indirect scientific evidence that genetic factors play a role. Studies compared obese and non-obese people for variation in genes that might influence behaviors. Behaviors such as not being able to control eating, or the tendency to be sedentary.  They also looked at metabolism genes that could diminish the capacity to burn fat or cause the body to store fat. The studies identified variants in several genes that may contribute to obesity because they cause a person to take in too much food and not be able to convert them to energy. 

In Dr. J. Dunn’s book Genetic Compassion, she describes further about how genes play a role in being overweight:

“Overweight People

One of the strongest prejudices we have is against overweight people.  As I’m writing this section, I am reading an article in Scientific American called “The Fat Gene” by Richard Johnson and Peter Andrews.  Their question was “why was diabetes, which is defined by the presence of abnormally high levels of the sugar glucose in the blood, becoming more prevalent?” The authors argue that “people with a gene variant that made their body particularly efficient in the intake and utilization of food would have socked away more of the scarce calories as fat.” The extra fat would allow these folks to survive better during times of starvation and famine.  The authors hypothesize that this very mechanism could be at the root of our epidemic of obesity and type II diabetes along with hypertension, nonalcoholic fatty liver disease, and heart disease. Johnson, Andrews Scientific American Oct 2015

There appears to be solid evidence that a mutation in a single gene caused modern humans to be thrifty with calories. This same gene may now be linked to many of the major diseases of humans.  Yet we tend to judge these folks. We ask, ‘why can’t they just exercise? Why can’t they just make better food choices?’ They judge themselves harshly as well. They live with such shame and self-loathing that they create a living hell in their lives.  Many of them truly live lives of “quiet desperation.” 

In an article in ABC News Online, “Stigma Against Fat People, the Last Acceptable Prejudice, Studies Find,” author Liz Neporent states that “prejudice against fat people was pervasive and translated into inequities across broad areas of life”.  She goes on to say, “Overweight people are usually shown in stereotypical ways—engaged in out of control eating or bingeing on junk food—and they are often shown as the target of humor or ridicule.” This leaves the overweight person feeling less than human and completely demoralized. However, they may simply have genes that perpetuate their situation and make it extremely difficult to lose weight.  This discouragement, in turn, can lead to eating more for comfort, and a vicious cycle begins. ABC News Neporent Jan 2013

In the gene variant mentioned above, the gene that codes for the enzyme uricase can mutate. This process is known as a single nucleotide polymorphism or SNiP.  This mutation can cause the body to convert fructose into fat more readily than normal, and it predisposes humans to obesity and diabetes. So, avoiding fructose would seem prudent in this case.  

As I travel from one venue to the next, I often write in airports.  While I wrote this section, I took a break to search for something to eat.  I read food labels and noted how ubiquitous fructose is in our modern diets, the biggest culprit being soft drinks.  High fructose corn syrup is a cheap source of sweetness, one to which we are readily addicted. It is in our cereals, stuffing, fruit drinks, breads, candies, condiments, cookies, cakes, granola, granola bars, cough syrups, crackers, dairy products (such as yogurt and Cool Whip), pickles, ice creams, jams, jellies, syrups, packaged meats, pastries, salad dressings, sauces, and even soups.  We are presented with it in schools, at snack vendors, and at fast food and other restaurants. It is actually difficult to avoid. Fruits are also a source of fructose; our ancestors consumed them in larger quantities when they wanted to store fat for times of famine. 

Another variant that could be involved in the efficient storage of fat, the lack of energy, as well as extreme hunger is the ACAT gene variant.  When there is a SNiP (a variation from the normal) in this gene, the individual converts food into cholesterol and triglycerides more readily than someone who doesn’t inherit a variant in this gene.  They store fat easily yet their cells are starving. This information disconnect increases the person’s appetite and may contribute to heart disease and type II diabetes. 

Other genetic variants can also contribute to the obesity epidemic.  The point is that humans are all different, and nature has allowed our ancestors to survive by selecting certain genetic variants that are advantageous.  Having genes that can store fat is certainly one of these during times of starvation, but it’s rather inconvenient when calories are plentiful. “

Discover how your genetics affect your emotional health and learn how to get your genetic report.   

About Dr. J Dunn:

Dr. J Dunn, BS, DC, CWK  has been practicing natural medicine for over 30 years.  She is a Chiropractic Physician and certified in Functional Medicine. She began studying the connection between genetics and nutrition in 2013 when she stumbled across information about methylation, genetics, nutrition, and nutrigenomics that sparked her interest. She realized that this was the missing piece to understanding true underlying causes of disease. Her drive to understand true causes and her passion for helping those who are suffering from depression, anxiety and attention issues lead her to create the MyHappyGenes program.