Ordering for a pizza, eating the creamy pasta or gulping down sugary soda with a smartphone in the hand has become a fashion statement for individuals. Kids birthday parties too are incomplete without pizza or cheesy burgers. Obesity shows no signs of slowing down irrespective of the negative impact it has caused on the health of the generation. Diet and exercise exist as ‘two’ factors to control obesity while food marketing practices and institutionally-driven reduction in physical activity exist as ‘two’ factors that promote obesity and this includes increased portion sizes in commercially marketed items, widespread availability of fast food at a cheaper cost and less awareness on physical education in schools. But the attention given to the ‘two’ elements that promote obesity has neglected other potential factors that affect obesity such as lack of quality physical education, restaurant dining, lack of enough sidewalks and the built environment and increased consumption of high-fructose corn syrup to name a few.
It might be in your gene to become an artist, a musician or a foodie but how you train yourself and the environment in which you live also determine your growing phase. Likewise, a research suggests that modern-day environment exists as the primary culprit behind the obesity epidemic and not genes. All the more, individuals with a genetic predisposition to obesity were affected greatly by factors that promote obesity such as wide availability of inexpensive high-calorie food, environmental structuring that pave way for decreased physical activity and leisure activities that make you an ardent couch potato (such as the play stations and desktop games). Individuals with a greater genetic link to obesity are more responsive to environmental conditions that promote obesity. On the other hand, even those people with very low genetic risk of obesity weigh heavier these days. While genetics must have prevented obesity in these people contrarily, the obesity epidemic has made them fatter. So, environment is a determining factor for obesity with the only difference that people with a high genetic risk are even greatly affected than the rest.
The research which dealt with modern-day environment’s effect on obesity relied on data of close to 9000 individuals born between 1900 and 1958. Each of the participant’s genetic predisposition to obesity was calculated based on whether they carried any of the 29 genetic variants linked to obesity. The risk score was then compared with the participant’s body mass index (BMI). Results showed that while the percentage of obesity-related genes did not increase over time, the effect of these genes on BMI did increase in the coming decades due to changes in the environment (that promotes obesity). The genes remained the same in people belonging to different centuries but had a greater impact on people born later in the century.
The researchers attribute this increase in obesity rates in people belonging to the current century to various possibilities. One of them is genetic factors that influence hunger and whether eating makes you feel satisfied. Maximum weight gain might be in people whose genetic variants make them feel hungry quite often and they also live in a place which provides easy accessibility to calorie-dense foods. Another might be that advances in science and technology has caused people to become sedentary relying on their cars and bikes rather than walking to the bus stop or railway station to catch the bus. We don’t get off our couch to change channels in the television nor do we get off our seats at office to talk to our colleague. The remote is our slave and emails our messengers used to communicate with someone who sits on the other corner of our floor. When such is our level of daily activity, what more can you expect other than a problem such as obesity?
Weight gain is always a war between the number of calories consumed versus the number of calories burned. While all of us have ample time and money to spend on fast food and latest gadgets we crib that we don’t have enough time to engage in physical activity. The obesity genes have remained a part of mankind since our evolution and they haven’t changed. It’s the environment that has drastically changed and causing the genes to have a bigger effect on the outcome. Eating healthy food, exercising regularly, trying to reduce stress and changing the lifestyle for the better are sure-shot ways to stay on healthy weight ranges. Get in touch with a registered dietitian nutritionist at www.firsteatright.com to help you embark on your journey to a better lifestyle.
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Dietitian & Nutritionist Dr. Nafeesa Imteyaz.