Friday, 13 April 2007

Obesity gene

With the recent discovery of a gene which predisposes people to put on weight more easily, it seems that scientists are finding out at last what some of us have known all along - people aren't necessarily overweight because they eat more than skinny people. But as the researchers say, identifying the gene doesn't mean a cure or a treatment. It's just a step towards understanding more about why obesity happens.

Nevertheless, in my book, that's a very real step forward. For too long, it has just been assumed that all an overweight person needs to do to achieve a normal body weight is to eat less and exercise more. If only it were that simple! Understanding more about the complex ways in which our bodies handle food and regulate weight will eventually bring us new and more effective ways to solve the obesity problem.

Will the discovery of the obesity gene cause people to give up trying to diet? It's important to remember that having the gene doesn't mean we will definitely become obese - it just means that we have a predisposition to it. In other words, we can still prevent it happening if we avoid the triggers. The trouble is, we don't know what these are yet. But we can take an educated guess that continuing to eat the high GI, nutrient-poor diet that has sadly become the norm for many people isn't going to help. In other words, going back to the kind of diet our great-grandparents ate by cutting out refined carbohydrates, highly processed foods and transfats and increasing intake of foods rich in essential fatty acids, vitamins and minerals is a good idea.

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