Why Are We So Fat? Genes or Behavior?
Recently there have been major announcements in both the scientific and popular media regarding a possible genetic link to obesity. This raises the old debate of whether people are fat because of genes or because of their behavior. Researchers at Boston University have detected a genetic variation that may predispose people to obesity. This variation is thought to be a contributing genetic factor in obesity. Despite some very interesting research, there is not a conclusive genetic link to obesity as yet. The discovery of a gene known as, Insig2 is believed to regulate fatty acids and cholesterol synthesis. This genetic variant is found in African populations, which means that the gene must have been present prior to the time when Africans left the continent some 50,000 years ago. This genetic variant however was completely harmless until recently. What change has occurred recently that might account for this formerly harmless genetic variant becoming potentially deadly? There is a single variable that stands out. It is our behavior, in particular, our modern diet. The incidence of overweight and obesity is increasing worldwide in both developing and developed countries. Environmental and behavioral changes brought about by economic development, modernization, and urbanization have been linked to the rise in global obesity. In the past ten (10) years, the prevalence of obesity has increased by about 10% to 40% in the majority of European countries. Anyone would be hard-pressed to construct a sound genetic argument in the face of the present facts and evidence. There is growing evidence of increased obesity even amongst poorer populations around the world. All of us are getting fatter. There are an estimated 300 million adults now considered to be overweight ,with the numbers growing at an alarming rate, according to experts at the International Obesity Conference. One quarter of Middle Eastern adults are obese. In Japan, twice as many men are obese today as compared to 1982. The situation is so dramatic that economic progress in developing countries could be undermined, according to Professor Philip James, Chairman, the International Obesity Task Force.