Obesity epidemic can’t all be blamed on genes

We have been subjected to years of obesity-related headlines, and the news almost always seems to be discouraging. Obesity has become a public health crisis that gets worse all the time, seemingly immune to public policy fixes. Nothing we do at a societal level has significantly altered the grim trend.

Take just the latest big study, co-authored by dozens of the world’s leading experts and published in May 2014 in the Lancet, one of the world’s leading medical journals. It concluded that 2.1 billionpeople are now considered overweight or obese. Most worrisome, the research found that despite significant government investment in a range of awareness and preventative strategies, not a single country has made progress on the problem. As the authors bluntly conclude: “Not only is obesity increasing, but no national success stories have been reported in the past 33 years.”

Given this kind of data, it is no surprise there is an intensifying search for a technological, pharmaceutical or, at least, biomedically oriented answer. Where public policy has failed, perhaps an anti-obesity drug, or a unique, personalized preventative approach can turn the tide.

The search for an “obesity gene” is a big part of the -cutting-edge, science-will-save-us ethos. Rarely a week goes by without a proclamation that our weight problem is in our genes.


This is a mistake, for many reasons.

While genetics clearly plays a role in our weight — as illuminated by studies of identical twins raised in separate environments — the predictive power of genetics, at least to date, has not been terribly impressive.

Read the full, original story: It’s not all in the genes

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