Genetics play a major role in a person’s health. Genetics can be defined as the study of heredity; heredity is considered to be the biological process where a parent passes certain genes onto their offspring (Mandal, 2018). This is the idea that because a person’s parent is affected by something that the person themselves is at risk of being affected by the same thing as well. In other words, if a person is obese it can be concluded that their child will also be at risk of obesity. Having distant relatives that don’t live together or lead their lives the same way that are obese, also can increase a person’s increase risk of obesity.
There have been several studies conducted to prove that genetics play a role in the development of obesity. One study consisted of researchers identifying the obese gene and cloning it to test it on animal species. The study consisted of mice that were obese, suffered from Type 2 diabetes, and lacked the protein leptin which appears to act primarily on the hypothalamus, where it influences appetite and energy use. The discovery opened the genetic floodgates (Watanabe, 2002). This led to the findings that a single genetic defect, one such as the leptin deficiency, has an important effect on obesity due to that deficiency affecting a person’s appetite.
It is also to be believed that the way a body responds to a certain diet, which affects obesity, is also hereditary. Researchers at the University of California Los Angeles also conducted an experiment with mice to explore the idea that the way a body responds to a diet affects the risk of obesity. They placed several mice on a normal diet for several weeks, then switched them to a high-fat, high sugar diet for another several weeks (Thomas, 2013). They observed the body weight changes and concluded that changes in body-fat percentage after high-fat, high-sugar feeding were also highly heritable, suggesting that dietary responses are strongly controlled by genetics (Thomas, 2013).
How Environmental Factors Affect Obesity
Along with an individual’s genetic makeup, there are many environmental factors that greatly affect an individual’s health which leads to obesity. Although, over the past years, genetic makeup has been proven to cause obesity, the increase in the prevalence of obesity over the past thirty years has risen due to environmental factors, including the consumption of foods and physical activity. The term obesogenic has been coined to describe environments that promote a higher food intake and less physical energy.
The trends in the consumption of certain foods containing large amounts of proteins, fats and sugars has made it easy for an individual to gain weight. According to National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey (NHANES) data, “daily energy intake has increased over the past four decades in both men (2350 to 2785 kcal) and women (1534 to 1946 kcal),” (Brehm, 2014). Researchers are determined to modify a macronutrient profile in which an individual can control the amount of certain foods they can intake which will limit the amount of weight they can gain, but can still provide the nutrients an individual needs to survive.
Portion sizes of most foods and drinks have greatly increased over the years, furthering the increase obesity worldwide. 7-11’s Big Gulp (30 oz), followed by the Super Big Gulps (40 oz) and even Double Gulps (50 oz) has stirred much controversy due to the insanely large consumption size of soda, which ranges to about 600 calories, which is, “almost 25 percent of the recommended caloric intake for a 30-year-old, 160-pound man who exercises regularly,” (Edwards, 2012). Being so cheap, these drinks are extremely popular due to the amount of soda one gets for around two dollars, but promotes weight gain by a landslide. Along with this, the increase in fast food restaurants including Mcdonalds, Wendys, Burger King, etc. promotes cheap food with little to no nutrients but large levels of fat. However, fast foods are not the only unhealthy food choices one can intake; to maintain a healthy lifestyle, one must consume fruits, vegetables, and unrefined carbohydrates and control alcohol consumption and controlling portion sizes.
Aside from food and drink intake, one must maintain a stable level of physical activity. Over the years, the level of physical activity an individual partakes in has diminished increasingly due to the global trend of high level technology and motorized transportation. These factors promote minimal physical activity because individuals are able to travel more efficiently which require less physical activity. According to Bonnie J Brehm, PhD, ”Physical inactivity is a major public health problem due to its association with increased risk for several chronic diseases, including cardiovascular disease, type 2 diabetes, and breast and colon cancers, as well as premature mortality,” (Brehm, 2014). In order to regulate body weight, one must complete around 150 minutes of moderate-intensity aerobic activity a week, and many individuals do not partake in even half that amount.
Genetics is one the most significant factors that affect obesity. Depending on a person’s genes, they either have an increased risk of obesity or normal/less risk of obesity. If a person’s parents are affected by obesity, it gives their children an increase risk of obesity. Even relatives that are affected by obesity that don’t necessarily share the same lifestyles, can also give that person an increased risk of obesity. There have been dozens of studies conducted to support the idea that genetics play a key role in obesity. For instance, there have been studies to show that a deficiency that affects a person’s appetite also affects the person’s risk of obesity. There have also been studies to show that the way a body responds to certain diets is also a factor of the risk of obesity. Overall, countless studies have shown to support the idea that genetics factor into the amount of risk of obesity a person may face.
Along with this, there are many strategies for modifying diet, physical activity and the environment around oneself that will maintain body weight and will help an individual avoid obesity. In order to begin the journey towards weight loss, one must retain the knowledge needed to safely do so, while maintaining their health physically and mentally. “Obesity treatment should be viewed as a chronic, ongoing process that requires the implementation of multiple strategies.The initial weight loss goal should be set realistically at 5% – 10% reduction in baseline body weight within 6 months of treatment,” (Brehm, 2014).
By beginning slow and steady, one will be able to stay healthy, yet gradually lose weight. After achieving the initial goal of weight loss, individuals need to work to maintain the reduced weight. It is also important to surround oneself with individuals that will support and motivate to sustain a healthy lifestyle.