Have you ever heard someone say “its genetics, nothing you can do about it, so why try?”
This is one of my pet peeves. I am a molecular biologist by trade, and have spent 25 years educating students about DNA. This is a powerful molecule, no arguing there. And, yes it does matter what genetic material your family has bequethed you. But, just because you have a particular gene, does not mean your fate is sealed!
Oncogenes, which are the genes that IF turned on, lead to loss of cell cycle control. This regulatory loss results in tumors, which may or MAY NOT, be malignant in nature. Do you want a tumor, no. But that tumor does not have to lead to radiation or chemotherapy.
Of course, knowing that you may have a higher chance of developing a certain disorder can be helpful information. For example, both breast and colon cancer are found in my family tree. Knowing that I posses a greater chance of developing one of these diseases has caused me to take certain precautions.
I have my annual physical
I have begun regular colon screening at an earlier age than recommended to the general population.
And, I maintain an active and healthy life style so that I will be at my strongest, physically, should I need to fight off cancer.
I don’t think these are new ideas here. Most people would respond the same way when it comes to facing these challenges.
But, there seems to be a different way of thinking when it comes to weight management. It’s almost as if the exact opposite logic is applied.
Why bother trying if my DNA won’t let me loose weight? Here, many Americans give up the fight and just accept that they are victims. Are they right?
Personal genetics do account for the majority of the predisposition toward obesity. Twin studies have shown that, even in an identical genetic background, one twin can have differential protein production, possibly leading to weight gain. So, is that it? Game over?
No! Proper nutrition and exercise can mitigate the effects of your personal genetics.
These ladies are identical twins, and appeared on Oprah in 2005.
Mary weighed 420 pounds, 300 pounds more than her genetically identical sister. Mary was prone to emotional eating and had a sedentary lifestyle. She struggled with finding the motivation to change her eating habits, in spite of her, then 13 year old son, who begged her to get healthy. When Chris died in a car accident at the age of 19, Mary found her motivation. By 2014 she had lost 124 pounds through healthy eating and exercise. It took the death of her son for her to take ahold of her own life.
This is a tragic story. And it illustrates the power we have over our genetic makeup. If this woman can suffer this heartbreak, and still look toward a healthier future, than I can spend some time analyzing my food choices.
Identical twins, Karen and Paula, were both overweight. They decided to embark on a weight loss journey together. One sister had a gastric band placed on her stomach, but the other could not afford the procedure and was left with the cheaper alternative of healthy eating and exercise. They lost 308 pounds between them.
Smart food choices and exercise was an effective method for overcoming any genetics!
But is that really what is driving these obesity numbers through the roof?
Americans eat more, period. Our portion sizes have doubled, or tripled while our genetics have ceased to evolve to deal with the massive intake of extra calories. All your cells can do is pack on the extra energy, in the form of fat reserves. Emotional eating is a real struggle, and the constant availability of food (day or night) plays a factor. It is human nature to eat what is placed in front of us.
The plate on the left is an adult dinner, the middle is the kids menu item, and the right is a European portion.
Obesity rates are lower in other countries such as Asia and Europe and I have often heard, “well, it is their genetics!” No doubt there is some truth to that.
However, when business men and women from Asia and Europe, travel to the US and adopt our Western “cuisine”, their obesity rates, heart disease and cardiovascular disease statistics reflect our own. Clearly their genetics did not cure them of our fast food, gigantic portion, supersized lifestyle!
The effects of the Western diet was reversed when these individuals returned to their home countries and resumed their normal diets. The rice and seafood of the Asian continent and the smaller portions of whole grains, and fresh produce of Europe, reversed the damage our food caused.
DNA is powerful all on its own, don’t give it any more control than it deserves. Take charge and be healthy and happy!