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More proof that fat isn't fate; a ludicrous idea

Published October 16. 2010 09:00AM

Two weeks ago you read about a study done with rats at Yale University that found the brains of rats bred to be genetically predisposed to obesity reacted differently to being fed a high-fat diet than those who were bred to be lean.

The finding led the lead author to write that obesity is "less about personal will" and more about genetics.

Since I disagree, I countered with "genetic predisposition is not destiny," especially for humans not specially bred, and used deduction reaching a particular conclusion from general information to prove it.

The CDC had just released a report showing adult obesity rates by state tripled in just one year.

How in the world could a truly genetic problem spring up in so many adults so quickly?

Instead, a more likely argument is the one offered by the CDC: that American society has become obesogenic, where overeating nutritionally void, high-calorie food and doing little exercise is now the norm. And what this does is exacerbate the problems encountered by certain individuals who are predisposed to gaining fat.

But in the world of health and science, deduction is seen as more of a way to generate discussion than to determine matters. That's why my argument that it's not fate to be fat will be offered once again.

That's because since the writing of the first column, British researchers have released scientific proof that bad genes can be mitigated by exercise.

In the study published in September in the journal PLoS Medicine, 20,430 volunteers were checked for 12 genetic variants associated with obesity that were passed onto them by their parents and asked their degree of physical activity. Most had between five and six of these variants.

Researchers determined that each increased the risk of obesity by 16 percent if the individual didn't work out.

The risk for those who did workout about an hour a day was only 10 percent.

Additionally, the researchers correlated the lack of exercise into a weight difference. For someone 5'6", the difference was a half of a pound. So for those found to have all 12 genetic variants, don't work out, and are appreciably taller, the difference could be 10 pounds.

In essence, this study reinforces what I have written for years: genetics will lead you down a certain path, but only if you agree to follow.

Think of viewing pictures of your parents 10 years older than you are now as analogous to Ebeneezer Scrooge being shown the future by the Ghost of Christmases Yet to Come.

If you eat and exercise for the next 10 years the way your parents did back then, there's a rather high likelihood that your body type in the future will be a compilation of theirs. But it doesn't have to be.

Scrooge recognized that certain courses foresee certain ends and that the Ghost wouldn't have bothered to show him the future if it couldn't be altered so he made dramatic changes to become something else.

To a large degree, you and Scrooge are the same. While this is not to say that if you are the son of two professional horse jockeys that you can grow up to become a professional football player, you could with proper diet and exercise the son or daughter of horse jockeys could develop the body type associated with a gymnast.

In other words, genetics can only determine how you look if you agree to it.


In somewhat related news, there's another group of researchers besides the Yalies who don't have much faith in personal will.

When a group of researchers from Imperial College London recognized that the immediate ingestion of a fast-food meal increases your risk of getting a heart attack by virtually the same degree that the immediate ingestion of a certain medication reduces it, they published a suggestion in the American Journal of Cardiology along with their findings.

As strange as it may seem, they suggested offering the medication at fast food restaurants in the same sort of small plastic packet as ketchup or mustard.

Talk about creating the improper mindset!

The last thing that junk food junkies need is the false sense that a drug is going to counteract their poor eating habits.

Obviously, a number of health organizations felt the same and reacted accordingly.

Diabetes UK, for instance, immediately released a press release stating that if followed the suggestion would invariably increase the number of type 2 diabetics in the United Kingdom.

Zoe Harrison, Diabetes UK Advisor, said for a Medical News Today article that "Statins [the drug type in question] can reduce the risk of cardiovascular disease ... however, they don't prevent all the side effects that result from an excessive intake of fatty food."

In other words, dispensing statins at fast food restaurants eliminates one immediate health problem but creates another in the long term.

Eliminating, not delaying, disease should be the goal of medical community and your goal as well.

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