1

votes

Obesity- nature vs. nurture

Answered on August 19, 2014
Created August 21, 2011 at 1:53 AM

I have a niece born to a VERY OBESE woman... she was adopted out, and the lady who adopted her is also VERY OBESE. My niece is now 9 years old and sadly obese herself. I'm really becoming concerned but don't feel I have any place or say or any right to judge really, but I am worried for the girl. Being overweight is not easy- being grossly obese as a child is very hard.
From what I know of the family- I don't think she's eating junk foods all day, I probably ate way more junk foods as a kid but was always skinny (I am female too).

Why is this?
Sorry if this is such a broad simple question, but I really am confused here. I've had people tell me that obesity is not genetic, but I have to wonder why some of us who grew up on Little Debbie snack cakes for breakfast and lunch stayed skinny and others just blew up... genetics has to play a role, right?
I wish I was in a position to have adopted my niece back then, I would do all I can to prevent her from having obesity issues... but I wonder if it could have been stopped at all?

edit: Maybe I should add that a boy who was also adopted with her around the same time is SUPER skinny.. I just realized that.

3aea514b680d01bfd7573d74517946a7

(11996)

on November 22, 2011
at 01:00 AM

Yes, I think you're right about our genes staying more or less the same, except for cascading epigenetic effects (one generation to the next). Our genes are obviously unprepared for certain aspects of our current environment. ;)

3846a3b61bc9051e4baebdef62e58c52

(18635)

on November 21, 2011
at 09:51 PM

I dont disagree. However, there are many that would have you overestimate the genetic role. I just like to point out that while epidemic proportions of these diseases continue to climb our genes remain the same (more or less). Its the switches we're throwing both in the womb as dragonfly suggests, in early development, and throughout life that leads to most these issues. I'm not taking anything away from genetic predisposition.

96bf58d8c6bd492dc5b8ae46203fe247

(37227)

on November 21, 2011
at 08:54 PM

Thanks to 1-meal-per-day IF, my cravings disappeared so well I now dare to have a little yogurt or other small breakfast and eat a larger meal in afternoon or early evening. The thing is, I probably still have all the fat cells I had at my fattest, so it's a delicate balance to see that they stay empty.

3aea514b680d01bfd7573d74517946a7

(11996)

on November 21, 2011
at 08:45 PM

There shouldn't be any doubt that genes determine the range of responses to the environment that are available to the organism. Someone whose genes -- just as an example -- encode for the production of greater-than-average amounts of insulin is going to fatten in a carbohydrate-rich environment; individuals producing smaller amounts of insulin won't. Absent insulinogenic foods, the one won't be three times the size of the other. Genes AND environment, not OR.

3aea514b680d01bfd7573d74517946a7

(11996)

on November 21, 2011
at 08:39 PM

Real life story: I'm adopted, and didn't find out about my birth mother until I was 43. My birth mother, and her mother and grandmother, were all overweight/obese (from pix, it seems to have gotten worse each new generation). My adoptive mom is slender and fed me "healthy" food (highish carb, lowish fat, but hardly the SAD). I've been overweight since I was 12 and was obese for many years. Only VLC/ZC has brought my weight down. I absolutely believe that genes load the gun, and environment pulls the trigger.

3846a3b61bc9051e4baebdef62e58c52

(18635)

on November 21, 2011
at 08:17 PM

this for sure...."but we mustn't search our DNA for sources of defeatism."

16e617676c5ac710e5235e0b773edc0b

(2640)

on August 21, 2011
at 05:23 PM

I can't recall the exact question that was asked so I could link it here but I read recently where someone posted that one becomes more insulin resistant in pregnancy and generally does not lose it therefore the first born is more likely to be the healthiest with the least proclivity to metabolic issues. I buy this argument completely as my older sister and I grew up eating the same food and she grew tall and thin (with perfect teeth) and I have always been short and round (with bad teeth).

A968087cc1dd66d480749c02e4619ef4

(20436)

on August 21, 2011
at 01:13 PM

Who said there is no genetic component? I know a skinny family and they eat huge bowls of ice cream every night and a typical, semi-healthy USDA approved SAD diet. Me, my wife, my parents, her parents, my brothers and sisters (5 of them) and my kids ALL have a weight problem of moderate obesity or worse. we are very restrictive on treats and junk with our kids, but they are still overweight (in spite of being active, travel softball players). Clearly, bad food makes it worse, but genetics matter.

279700a1070c65fc144eceaa642dcbc7

(144)

on August 21, 2011
at 07:32 AM

Please don't spread the "fat people are lying about their food intake" meme. It's wrong, unfriendly and leads nowhere.

7c9f81d68c78de1a31eab9c91c17b4b8

on August 21, 2011
at 05:37 AM

I have no idea on the nature/nurture question here but I will tell you I craved sugar with the 1st bite of any meal for my 1st 3 months of paleo/LC. I started eating coconut chips after every meal and drinking coconut oil in my coffee. If I'm trying to go down another 2 pounds I'll eat as much fat as I can get my hands on that week. Anyway, my cravings are so much less with the higher fat. When I eat sugar now I feel poor and it inhibits my cheat.

B2f2a025c9901b31af3853d1336d5307

(183)

on August 21, 2011
at 02:48 AM

whoa that is interesting... I do have a sweet tooth just like my Mom.. I'm still struggling to keep away from sugar now that I'm getting older and my metabolism is slowing down. My Mom is diabetic now, I don't want the same fate.

D10ca8d11301c2f4993ac2279ce4b930

(5242)

on August 21, 2011
at 02:46 AM

Fructose malabsorption is a nasty, nasty thing.

7e746be2f0e550a8cd7df881322ae705

(18701)

on August 21, 2011
at 02:22 AM

My mom lived on Tab and cigarettes, so I'm not sure what happened to me.

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7 Answers

3
Ce41c230e8c2a4295db31aec3ef4b2ab

(32556)

on August 21, 2011
at 02:19 AM

Babies develop their taste for certain foods in the womb and I have noticed that I am the only non-obese one of five daughters.

I am the oldest and I suspect my mom didn't eat as much sugar when she was pregnant with me as she did with the younger four. When my mom was pregnant with me she lived in England and ate far fewer processed foods than she did when she moved to the States (right before I was born.)

There is also the hypothesis that the composition of a mom's diet during pregnancy can turn on or off particular genes that govern metabolism. Sorry no links at the moment!

ETA: Here's a link:

http://www.guardian.co.uk/science/2011/mar/07/mothers-diet-pregnancy-ageing-diseases (No conclusive studies, just a hypothesis...)

7e746be2f0e550a8cd7df881322ae705

(18701)

on August 21, 2011
at 02:22 AM

My mom lived on Tab and cigarettes, so I'm not sure what happened to me.

B2f2a025c9901b31af3853d1336d5307

(183)

on August 21, 2011
at 02:48 AM

whoa that is interesting... I do have a sweet tooth just like my Mom.. I'm still struggling to keep away from sugar now that I'm getting older and my metabolism is slowing down. My Mom is diabetic now, I don't want the same fate.

16e617676c5ac710e5235e0b773edc0b

(2640)

on August 21, 2011
at 05:23 PM

I can't recall the exact question that was asked so I could link it here but I read recently where someone posted that one becomes more insulin resistant in pregnancy and generally does not lose it therefore the first born is more likely to be the healthiest with the least proclivity to metabolic issues. I buy this argument completely as my older sister and I grew up eating the same food and she grew tall and thin (with perfect teeth) and I have always been short and round (with bad teeth).

3
Medium avatar

on August 21, 2011
at 02:02 AM

There are countless variables, but I think in most cases people are eating more junk food than you observe or that they admit and that though genetics/epigenetics may predispose one to a particular BMI for example, it's not an irrevocable death sentence. Very few people are completely doomed to be obese, but there is of course a spectrum of susceptibility.

My lot in life is that I simply cannot eat the average intake of fructose without feeling terrible. Hers may be that she cannot eat certain things that others eat or get away with the level of inactivity that others may without becoming obese. Such is life, but we mustn't search our DNA for sources of defeatism.

D10ca8d11301c2f4993ac2279ce4b930

(5242)

on August 21, 2011
at 02:46 AM

Fructose malabsorption is a nasty, nasty thing.

279700a1070c65fc144eceaa642dcbc7

(144)

on August 21, 2011
at 07:32 AM

Please don't spread the "fat people are lying about their food intake" meme. It's wrong, unfriendly and leads nowhere.

3846a3b61bc9051e4baebdef62e58c52

(18635)

on November 21, 2011
at 08:17 PM

this for sure...."but we mustn't search our DNA for sources of defeatism."

2
0ad4ed16f0afccc544f92e51945482f7

on September 07, 2013
at 12:44 AM

At least 50% of the variation in body mass index is due to genetics. Identical twins reared apart show 70-80% concordance. So yes, lots of genetic input to BMI.

http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/8782724

3aea514b680d01bfd7573d74517946a7

(11996)

on November 21, 2011
at 08:39 PM

Real life story: I'm adopted, and didn't find out about my birth mother until I was 43. My birth mother, and her mother and grandmother, were all overweight/obese (from pix, it seems to have gotten worse each new generation). My adoptive mom is slender and fed me "healthy" food (highish carb, lowish fat, but hardly the SAD). I've been overweight since I was 12 and was obese for many years. Only VLC/ZC has brought my weight down. I absolutely believe that genes load the gun, and environment pulls the trigger.

1
96bf58d8c6bd492dc5b8ae46203fe247

(37227)

on August 21, 2011
at 03:05 AM

Genetic elements not mentioned much here include appetite and gene expression. My mother had a moderate appetite but she had a tendency to put on weight from starches and sugars. My dad and brother had huge appetites but had no obesity issues. I, (insert your sympathy here,) have the huge appetite and tendency to put on weight from starches (I actually have less trouble with fructose.) I was so fat as a baby I was slow to sit up although I walked early.

Basically, we all ate the same foods and in our family the males were no larger than the females, but my mom and I were chubby/fat and my dad and brother were lean.

In my case, even 5 months of VLC paleo left me with insane cravings for carbs. Nothing seems to lessen the urges; the compromise I've reached so far is to eat more fruit than most Paleo folks report but I can't get away with starches at all. The ray of hope for me has been when I recently fell off the wagon and ate some starches and grains they didn't taste as good as I thought they would and they made me sick. If that keeps up, I hope it will be easier to limit my treats to fruit.

7c9f81d68c78de1a31eab9c91c17b4b8

on August 21, 2011
at 05:37 AM

I have no idea on the nature/nurture question here but I will tell you I craved sugar with the 1st bite of any meal for my 1st 3 months of paleo/LC. I started eating coconut chips after every meal and drinking coconut oil in my coffee. If I'm trying to go down another 2 pounds I'll eat as much fat as I can get my hands on that week. Anyway, my cravings are so much less with the higher fat. When I eat sugar now I feel poor and it inhibits my cheat.

96bf58d8c6bd492dc5b8ae46203fe247

(37227)

on November 21, 2011
at 08:54 PM

Thanks to 1-meal-per-day IF, my cravings disappeared so well I now dare to have a little yogurt or other small breakfast and eat a larger meal in afternoon or early evening. The thing is, I probably still have all the fat cells I had at my fattest, so it's a delicate balance to see that they stay empty.

0
3846a3b61bc9051e4baebdef62e58c52

(18635)

on November 21, 2011
at 08:15 PM

Obesity is not a genetic disease. Predisposition only equals genetic expression under the right circumstances. You can control those circumstances.

3846a3b61bc9051e4baebdef62e58c52

(18635)

on November 21, 2011
at 09:51 PM

I dont disagree. However, there are many that would have you overestimate the genetic role. I just like to point out that while epidemic proportions of these diseases continue to climb our genes remain the same (more or less). Its the switches we're throwing both in the womb as dragonfly suggests, in early development, and throughout life that leads to most these issues. I'm not taking anything away from genetic predisposition.

3aea514b680d01bfd7573d74517946a7

(11996)

on November 22, 2011
at 01:00 AM

Yes, I think you're right about our genes staying more or less the same, except for cascading epigenetic effects (one generation to the next). Our genes are obviously unprepared for certain aspects of our current environment. ;)

3aea514b680d01bfd7573d74517946a7

(11996)

on November 21, 2011
at 08:45 PM

There shouldn't be any doubt that genes determine the range of responses to the environment that are available to the organism. Someone whose genes -- just as an example -- encode for the production of greater-than-average amounts of insulin is going to fatten in a carbohydrate-rich environment; individuals producing smaller amounts of insulin won't. Absent insulinogenic foods, the one won't be three times the size of the other. Genes AND environment, not OR.

0
1a98a40ba8ffdc5aa28d1324d01c6c9f

(20378)

on August 21, 2011
at 05:26 AM

If the sugars and refined flours go low enough there is a good chance she can loose that weight. Fries can also be an issue...

0
Ac1e55cf06c2180f4008ff01953d10dd

on August 21, 2011
at 02:41 AM

Excess weight results from several factors, and diet is definitely one big issue there, but not the only one. Genetics plays a role too, but also lifestyle, some people are very active, some others stay sitting all day. Also individual attitudes are very important, and not only with respect to food. Perhaps the best you can do is to advise her both on healthy eating habits, and also on exercise-sports. Some overweight people stops early on any significant exercise and this contributes enormously to their worsening, too.

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