This is my first post in a series I’m doing to help disprove the widely held belief that obesity is “caused” by genetics. This misconception seems to be the number one argument people have when discussing obesity, and rationalizing why it has become so ubiquitous.
I’d actually like to start out this series without any references to any research or articles or books or websites, and just talk about some things that seem common sense to me. I will state a FACT, and then show how it doesn’t make any sense that genetics plays the role that so many people think it does.
FACT #1 - In the 1960′s, in the U.S., about 10% of people were obese. Today, 32%.
If genetics is to blame for our obesity epidemic, this would imply that before the epidemic, our genes were different. If our genes have changed so much in the past 40 years, why have I heard or read NOTHING about scientists and geneticists FREAKING OUT that our gene pool is going through some drastic changes? Perhaps the majority of humans have managed to develop some type of genetic disorder in the past few decades. Although currently, almost all known disorders are quite rare. Since that is most likely not the case, what are the most obvious changes that we have undergone (that can be undergone) in such a short span of time?
The answers are: Diet and Lifestyle.
FACT #2 – Our DNA plays a role in Cancer, Parkinson’s, and Alzheimer’s.
Although we know that genes do play a role in giving us these diseases, we do not, however, have much of an idea of how to prevent them. We do know how to prevent, AND REVERSE obesity. The only one of those three diseases that can be stopped is cancer, but not through treatment. Only by killing or removing cancerous cells can you stop its spread. I suppose you can remove fat cells to stop a person from being obese, but they can get fat again. Cancer can spread again, but that is completely fucking different. The easiest thing a person can do to prevent or reverse obesity is to alter their diet and lifestyle. If you’ve been led to believe that a surgery is the easy way out, you’re mistaken. It’s the last resort. How many times does it have to be said? Calories consumed verses calories burned. It’s that simple. A fat cell cannot make itself fatter if the raw materials that it uses to synthesize fat are not present. Fat does not appear out of fat thin air!
FACT #3 – Obesity rates vary widely by geographic region.
This fact might be the simplest one to explain, and will prove my point the most effectively. Currently in the U.S., states like Massachusetts and Colorado have nearly HALF AS MANY obese people as there are in West Virginia and Mississippi. Is a person’s genetics different that happens to live in a place where they most likely walk more than they drive their car? NO! This isn’t the Galapagos Islands. Humans are not isolated or landlocked, causing them to stay in one place for thousands of years while random mutations in their genetics are allowed to influence their evolution. We can travel a thousand miles in 3 hours. It is a small world, after all!
FACT #4 – Obesity vs. Mal-Nourishment rates vary depending on a society’s developmental stage.
As a nation makes the transition from “developing” to “developed”, the population goes from having more mal-nourished people than overweight, to having MORE overweight people and less mal-nourished people as the overall wealth of the nation increases. Not only do the proportions of under-nourishment to obesity shift as socioeconomic changes happen, so do the rates of obesity change among people within different income levels. When a country is less economically developed, the obesity rates are highest among the wealthiest. When that same nation (or culture, region) becomes more “developed”, the group containing the most obese individuals changes from being the wealthiest, to the poorest.
Whilst once a symbol of wealth and prosperity in nations such as the U.S., Canada, and most Western European countries, obesity has now become a symbol for poor health, mediocrity, and poverty. The socioeconomic level with the most overweight people is that of those which are below the poverty line in these nations.
Take a trip to any art museum, and you’ll see painting after painting, spanning several centuries, of overweight men and women being deified. The reason for this is because only the rich could afford to eat enough food to become a heavy size, and then commission a painting to be done. Also, most of these people were kings, queens, or otherwise somehow affiliated with nobility. Until the industrial revolution, if you weren’t one of these few people, odds are you were a farmer or some sort of tradesman, and extremely poor, and had very little food to eat.
Now, fast forward to today, when an image like this one doesn’t make me think that this guy is of noble birth. It looks more like he just got done eating about 20 pounds of ribs, sausage, and crawfish. This photo doesn’t make me think of wealth or affluence. If I had to guess, I would say he is an American, who lives in the south, and is in the lower-middle class. It makes me think of abundance, gluttony, sloth, and mal-nourishment. Likely, this man hasn’t eaten a piece of fruit in a week.
If you think my points are crap, awesome, retarded, unfounded, genious, or you have some others that you’d like to add… PLEASE leave a comment. I encourage discussion about this.