Expert Commentary: Dr. Elliot Goodman, M.D. - May 28, 2009

Is there an obesity gene? Research demonstrates that there is. In fact there may be several genes that contribute to obesity. The INSIG2 gene controls insulin. It inhibits the synthesis (manufacturing in the body) of fatty acid and cholesterol. People with a sequence variation near the gene seem less able to inhibit the synthesis of fatty acid and cholesterol. The end result is a tendency to accumulate more body fat. Another culprit gene is a variant version of the FTO gene. People who have this gene tend to eat more to satisfy their appetites. And the children with this gene have a tendency to gain excess fat.

If you are born with any of these gene variants are you destined to be obese? Definitely not!

Researchers at the University London College stated in a recent press release that "Obesity is not inevitable if your genes give you a higher risk. Those with high-risk genes can, in some cases, resist their genetic lot if they alter their lifestyle in the right way -- in this case, their diet."

According to the research the key is for children, and us adults as well, to moderate a diet based on energy-dense food. What does that mean? Cheese is an energy-rich food having more calories per bite than a less dense food, such as soup. Hunger is usually satiated by volume, the amount of food we eat. If we train ourselves to eat energy-dense food, we will eat more calories. Children with the “obesity” gene will tend toward eating more before they are satisfied, and thus the foods they eat are critical to how much excess calories they consume. Many of these children are overweight by the time they are ten or thirteen.

However, if they grow up eating healthier, less energy-dense food they will have normal weight, the same as children without the gene variants for obesity.

So that’s the good news. Genes are not necessarily our destiny. And even if you come from a family tree that looks rather full, a healthy lifestyle can keep you slim. And that is especially true for your children. Eating healthy and maintaining a regular exercise program not only will change your life but will start your children on a new path toward a slimmer future.

I can’t think of a better motivator than that.


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