Over the years I have engaged in conversations with friends, neighbors and relatives about the issue of how your family genes plays a role in your own weight. The general assumption has been that we are basically a slave to one’s own genetic make up. Over the past few years more and more studies have come out underscore a different point of view.
According to many recent studies, we can influence our weight and personal health by taking an active role in our own lifestyle. Even people with a strong genetic predisposition to obesity can offset their risk of being over weight by being physically active, according to a study published Tuesday August 31st in the Journal PLoS Medicine.
British researchers examined the effects of 12 genetic variants associated with a higher risk of obesity among 20,430 people in Britain. Researchers calculated a genetic predisposition score for each volunteer that ranged from 0 to 24, representing the number of obesity-related variants they had inherited. (Most of the scores were between 10 and 13.) The volunteers also reported their levels of physical activity.
Armed with that information, the researchers determined that each DNA variant carried a 16% increased risk of obesity among those who were sedentary. But for people who got at least one hour of physical activity per day, the increased risk per variant was only 10% — a reduction of 40%.
In terms of weight gain, each obesity-related gene variant in inactive volunteers was associated with an additional 1.3 pounds in body mass for someone about 5 1/2 feet tall. In people who exercised, the extra body mass was 0.8 pounds, according to the report.
Previous studies have shown that physical activity can offset the effect of genetics, but most have focused on a single gene known as FTO, also known as fat mass and obesity. But many more DNA variants have been linked to obesity in the last three years, said Ruth Loos, program leader at Cambridge University’s Medical Research Council Epidemiology Unit and the study’s senior author.
“The more variants you carry, the more likely you are to be obese,” she said. Gil Atzmon, a geneticist at the Albert Einstein College of Medicine in the Bronx, N.Y., said the findings underscore that DNA doesn’t necessarily mean destiny.
“The message from this is, if you have a genetic predisposition for some things, you can change your lifestyle and contribute to better health,” he said. Loos said she didn’t advocate genetic testing for obesity at this point because not enough is known about how these and other variants affect weight.
“Knowing if your parents were obese is a better predictor than knowing your genome, since you not only share genes with your family, but lifestyle as well,” she said. But in the future, being aware of one’s genetic makeup may help tailor obesity treatments, she added.
There has been a great deal of press written in the last few months on how obesity affects our health as individuals and as a nation. Just yesterday, in the LA Times, I found more on a link between obesity and cancer.
An increasing number of studies are finding that overweight and obese people are more likely to develop cancer of various kinds. At least half a dozen types of cancer are believed to be directly affected by weight. ”As time goes on, we’re realizing that obesity is related to more cancers than we originally suspected,” said Dr. Donald Hensrud, an associate professor of preventive medicine and nutrition at the Mayo Clinic College of Medicine.
Researchers are unable to prove that obesity actually causes cancer because requiring people to either gain weight or keep their weight down in clinical trials would be impossible.
Still, the evidence is “convincing” for a cause-and-effect relationship between obesity and postmenopausal breast, colon, endometrial, esophageal, kidney and pancreas cancer, according to a 2007 report from the World Cancer Research Fund and the American Institute for Cancer Research. The report also cited obesity as a “probable” cause of gallbladder cancer.
Scientists aren’t sure how obesity might affect cancer risk, but “there are some plausible biological mechanisms by which this may occur,” said Dr. Patricia Ganz, director of cancer prevention and control research at UCLA’s Jonsson Comprehensive Cancer Center.
One popular explanation is that extra weight boosts the body’s production of hormones such as estrogen, insulin and insulin-like growth factor. All of these have the potential to promote the growth of certain tumors.
Another possibility is that fatness contributes to cancer growth by causing cells to divide more rapidly. The suspected higher risk of gallbladder cancer might be explained by the increased tendency of obese people to develop gallstones. These stones cause inflammation that could promote cancer.
No matter what researchers ultimately reveal about the role of weight in cancer, weight control remains an essential part of staying healthy.
”If body fatness were totally unrelated to cancer, the message would still be the same, because of the importance of weight control for heart disease, stroke, diabetes, joint pain and other conditions,” said Dr. Tim Byers, a professor of epidemiology at the Colorado School of Public Health.
One thing is clear, we need to get a better handle on our weight as individuals and as a nation. The better we handle our own weight, the more oomph we can experience in our own lives. If you have more interest, you can read the entire article at:LA Times
Meet Rashida, a woman determined to lose weight through a fitness and nutrition program called “All About You Bootcamp.” Rashida is fighting against some lifestyle related diseases that run in her family (like diabetes) and is determined to take a proactive role in her own health. Come along on Rashida’s journey and share some of her insights on her own challenges.
I am Linda D. and I am a food addict. When and where did this addiction come from? Aren’t we all food addicts to some degree or another? Everyone has to eat, right? These are some of the questions I’ve pondered during my meditation, during conversations, and on hundreds of other random occasions during the course of my working the FA- Food Addicts in Recovery Anonymous program over the past 15-months.
Realizing that I was, in fact, an addict was the first step in my recovery. To these following questions, published in FA approved literature, I answered YES, YES, YES, YES…!
• Have you ever wanted to stop eating and couldn’t? “Yah!”
• Do you find yourself attempting one diet or food plan after another, with no lasting successes? “Totally!”
• Do you eat differently in private than you do in front of other people? “U-ha.”
• Has a doctor or family member ever approached you with concern about your eating habits or weight? “Yup.”
• Do you eat large quantities of food at a time? “Sure.”
• Is your weight problem due to “nibbling” all day long? “Partly.”
• Do you eat to escape from your feelings? “Sometimes.”
• Do you eat when you’re not hungry? “Often.”
• Do you eat in secret? “I have.”
• Do you frequently feel guilty or ashamed about what you’ve eaten? “Sadly.”
• Are you waiting for your life to begin “when” you lose the weight? “Yes.”
• Do you feel hopeless about your relationship with food? “I surrender!”
When I finally surrendered and said, “Enough is enough!,” that’s when my weight loss started. For me, and I think for countless other people, my addiction was in my head. I’m hard wired for flour and sweets. My problem default was to run to food when I was happy, sad, lonely, excited, celebratory, nervous, and God forbid, hungry. When did this chaos start? Well, let’s put it this way…as a child I named my first dog “Ralph” (named after the supermarket in my neighborhood.), my tortoise’s name is “Steak” (Yes, “is” Steak because I still have him. He’s over 45-years old.), my baby doll’s name was “Sugar,” and I even named my cat after a popular cat food brand, “Frisky” (Wow! I just remembered that I used to sit and eat his cat food with him too. Ooooa!) I named things I loved after things I loved…food! My food addiction started a long time ago. Sugar and flour are drugs. They altered my chemistry. I felt different after eating them but I always wanted more. How did I get it more? Being 7 years-old, what did I have to offer? Boobies! The neighbor boys had candy cigarettes and I had boobies. It was the perfect barter. I carried that shame around for years. Food addiction started a long time ago for me.
Even with over 50 pounds of weight loss, I am still a food addict. With help, I have it in check one day at a time. There is no longer shame around my food or the way I look. The meals I make are made with ingredients that God intended me to eat—fruits, vegetables, meat, dairy and grains. Today, I cook better and more exciting meals than I did when I was heavy. Dinner used to be a bag of tortilla chips and salsa. Thank God those days are over.
If you think that you may be a food addict, there is a solution. Please visit foodaddicts.org to find a local chapter close to you and attend a few meetings.
I’m Linda and I’m a food addict. Saying this statement to others and myself is a gentle reminder of who I am, where I’ve been, and what I could easily revert back to if not mindful. My food program is something I work on daily. Thank you fellows, family, and friends for all you have done to support me on my daily journey with food addiction. I did not and do not do this alone! Doing it alone NEVER worked before, so thank you!
While backpacking in the high country of Yosemite with a friend, the topic of my dramatic weight loss came up and an interesting metaphor for life materialized. As I stated before, I did not achieve my weight loss alone. Standing in the forest, below a vast expanse of hearty Douglas Firs, I realized the tremendous power in numbers. A mature forest stands strong as a whole. Seedlings are protected. When I started FA, I was a seedling, so vulnerable. My fellows and a veteran sponsor, with 5-years of abstinence, showed me the way and helped me weather many a storm. In recovery, I began to grow strong emotionally, spiritual cornerstones were put in place, and my healthy, new body started to appear. I was a maturing tree reaching rapidly towards the life giving sunshine. However, even in nature, not everything is perfect. Early on those storms happened almost daily, usually manifesting in the form of some floury and sugary product seen on TV, in a store, at the gas station, at work, and even in my dreams. I realized the power it had over me. Experienced fellows shared that these “cravings” weren’t hunger, rather “feelings” that churned away in my stomach and mind. My natural default was to reach for food, which worked but left me numb, fat, and unhappy. Getting support was the only way to get to the next day. Some days, it was difficult to see beyond that. But with help, especially from my sponsor and fellows, the storms passed without me picking up a floury or sugary item. What I now eat are vegetables, fruits, meats and grains in a kaleidoscope of amazing colors, of which I love! Thank God!
Today, I am amazed to say, that my seedling has turned into a tree. I am firmly planted in a forest where I have been given the opportunity to shield and guide others during storms and bouts with uncontrollable cravings. Do I still suffer with cravings at times? Yes! However, abstaining from flour, sugar, and quantities is my first choice. My new lifestyle affords me oomph that I only imagined before.
It’s Monday, August 24th. I am 40 years old, 5’8” tall, and weigh 139 pounds. I have 54 pounds of permanent weight loss and have been in Food Addicts in Recovery Anonymous (FA) for 13-months. To learn more about my food program, please visit www.foodaddicts.org and attend a meeting near you.