Is There Such a Thing As Genetic Obesity?

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  • Written By: Ken Black
  • Edited By: Andrew Jones
  • Last Modified Date: 18 October 2019
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A number of studies, including those conducted by researchers at Boston University and Harvard Medical School, suggest there is such a thing as genetic obesity. The genetics involve not only influence the body mass index of an individual, but where fat deposits are likely to be stored. In some cases, it is the presence of certain genes that affect genetic obesity. In other cases, the absence of certain genes, or certain bits of information within the genes, may be the most important factors.

While scientists have long understood that genetic obesity does exist, the genetic components were originally thought to only influence a very few families. Studies in the first part of the 21st century have suggested those prone to obesity, especially childhood obesity, may be more widespread. The Boston University study in 2006 suggested that scientists have uncovered a genetic link that may be shared by as much as 10 percent of the European and African-American populations. That new information could lead to even more links being discovered in the future.


In the 2006 study, researchers also found a variant in at least one gene, Insig2, that is known to regulate fatty acids and cholesterol synthesis. A variant was also found in another gene, but the function of that gene has not yet been determined. Another study, published by Nature in 2010, suggested that deletions on a certain chromosome may provide an indication of genetic obesity, especially obesity that is severe and happens early in a person's life.

Other studies have also suggested that genetic obesity may not be the product of one or two genes, but rather a whole set of genes. If the right set is present, then obesity may be more likely to occur, especially in certain segments of the population. Researchers are still trying to map most of these genes, and determine which may be responsible for predisposing a person to obesity. Despite the need for continuing research, reports indicate enough of a relationship does exist that points to the existence of genetic obesity.

The presence of genetic obesity is very important as the medical community looks for new ways to combat the health problem. Knowing that a person has a certain genetic variation could lead to new treatment methods, such as medicines that help to counter that effect. In addition, the medical community could watch closely those who are prone to obesity to encourage healthy lifestyle choices, in an attempt to prevent poor eating habits and a sedentary lifestyle.


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Post 3

@Fa5t3r - I've got much more of a problem with the word diet than the word fat. No one should diet. People should eat healthy food and exercise with the intention to be or become healthy and that's it. It's only when people have the goal of being thin that they start to harm themselves and that's what diets are about.

Post 2

@MrsPramm - I don't think you're wrong in the majority of cases, but that's not to say that there aren't people who would be fat in any but the most extreme circumstances, because of their genetic makeup. To use the red-hair analogy, a red-headed person might end up with white hair from stress, but under most circumstances they are going to keep their red hair (barring artificial changes of course).

What troubles me more is the fact that it's so widely accepted that fat is automatically bad. Most studies seem to point to dieting as being more of a health concern than fat itself and the fact that they are so very closely related it's difficult to find one person who

is fat but has never been on a diet, is troubling.

If there is a genuine form of genetic obesity, then our culture forcing people into extreme diet and exercise routines to fit an unobtainable norm is basically far more harmful than fat itself.

Post 1

I actually think what needs to be done is to rethink the term obesity. That's a symptom, rather than a condition. People aren't going to be genetically prone to obesity, per sec, but they will be genetically prone to storing more fat or storing it in particular places, or being more vulnerable to sugar addiction or whatever.

In certain circumstances, that does mean that people might be genetically inclined to be obese when put in particular circumstances. But it's not the same as a person being a genetic red-head, for example. Fat storage just has too many factors to be the result of a single genetic impetus, and treating it as though it has a simple cause and effect mechanism is what is leading to so many problems.

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