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Thursday, 12 February 2015 08:12

Largest Study Links Genetics To Obesity

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A new study from the University of Michigan finds more evidence of links between genetics and obesity. In the largest study of its kind, genetic samples from over 300,000 people were analyzed. Scientists found 140 genes that were associated with obesity, including how and where fat is stored in the body.

As a parent of fraternal twins with very different "body types," I won't dispute that genetics plays a role in determining future body size. But this study has led some to wrongly conclude that, "exercise and dieting [are] of little use to millions with the fat gene."

The new genetic study did not identify a single gene which causes obesity ("fat gene"). It identified many genes which are in some way related to obesity, such as predisposition to diabetes and heart disease. While fact-finding missions are important, they raise more questions than they answer. Medical science focuses on curing symptoms rather than treating causes. Study author Dr. Elizabeth Speliotes went so far as to compare "healthy obesity" to obesity with complications (video).

A study may come up with correct facts, but still draw the wrong conclusions. Consider the proverb of the five blind men and the elephant. Five blind men grasp different parts of an elephant and come to different conclusions about what they are holding. The man touching the tail thinks the elephant is a rope. The man touching a leg thinks it is a pillar. The man touching an ear thinks it is a large fan. And so on.

The genetics argument simply falls short. It fails to account for the tripling of childhood obesity rates in the past 30 years. I'm a firm believer in science, but not junk science. There is no magic cure in a bottle. For the vast majority (2/3 of Americans who are overweight or obese), the most important factor is the desire to live a healthy lifestyle. So make that your focus.

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