Your Genes Aren't Making You Fat, You Are
by Ethan Glover, Sun, Jan 14, 2018 - (Edited) Sun, Jan 14, 2018
It can be difficult to talk about the problems with obesity. Despite its increase in the population and significant dangers, it's easy to 'trigger' people who think the subject is sensitive and/or offensive. The very idea that someone might be obese due to their own choices scares people. Why, some people are just naturally big!
But that's not true. There are genetic markers for obesity. I have a few of them myself. However, it's long been established that genetics only play a minor role in weight management. As a study published in The BMJ notes, "genetic predisposition is no barrier to successful weight management and no excuse for weak health and policy responses."
In fact, that very same study found that healthy diets such as the 2010 Alternative Healthy Eating Index (AHEI-2010) and DASH have a bigger effect on those with genetic predispositions than those without. Meaning those who have genetic markers that have a correlation with a higher risk of obesity will lose more weight on a healthy diet than those without. However, this effect was not seen in the Alternative Mediterranean Diet (AMED).
Personally, I wouldn't recommend any of these diets (AHEI-2010, DASH, or AMED) because of the high levels of grains and low levels of fat. I'm not a doctor but the supporters of these diets (USDA and other government organizations) have a very poor history of diet recommendations that have led directly to national health crises. The lack of differentiation between LDL and HDL, as well as recommending a low-fat, high-carb intake leads to very dangerous results. But that's an aside.
The point is, genetics do not play a major role on weight management. However, as people gain weight, it does become increasingly difficult to lose weight.
A study by the University of Exeter found that the fat cells in obese people become distressed, scarred and inflamed. And this is what makes weight loss become difficult.
Basically, as fat cells become larger they become suffocated by their own expansion. As the cells struggle for oxygen, they become inflamed. This inflammation causes the fat tissues to become stiff and rigid which makes reducing their size difficult. (They lose their elasticity.)
As those cells become too large, the inflammation spreads into the arteries and effects blood circulation. This can also cause damage to vital organs and a number of diseases. Including arteriosclerosis, high-blood pressure, heart diseases, strokes, fatty-liver disease, and cardiovascular disease.
In fact, for some people fat is not stored under the skin as much. Meaning, they may appear thin but have fat stored around vital organs and arteries. Which causes the same inflammation and health issues as those with obesity.
Researchers of the Exeter study note that the evidence shows that once the fat tissue is scarred, it does not recover. Even after someone has lost a lot of weight, it remains difficult to keep that weight off.
To add on top of that, another study found that the effects of a poor diet tend to linger around long after people have switched to a healthy diet.
This study published in Cell, found that the immune system reacts to a fast-food diet as a bacterial infection. This, in turn, spreads inflammation through the body. After being fed a fast-food diet, mice who switched to a healthy diet experienced increased immune system activity for four weeks. This happens due to the fact that the immune system has a system of memory. This memory is how vaccinations can protect us from diseases. However, an overactive immune system can lead to numerous inflammatory diseases such as rheumatoid arthritis, inflammatory bowel disease, and type-1 diabetes.
Additionally, the study found that a fast-food diet can cause DNA to unravel in certain places. Similar to a frayed ball of wool. This allows the body to read previously unseen genes which create epigenetic changes. This too can lead to stronger inflammatory reactions from the body. As Science Daily notes:
These inflammatory responses can, in turn, accelerate the development of vascular diseases or type 2 diabetes. In arteriosclerosis, for example, the typical vascular deposits, the plaques, consist largely of lipids and immune cells. The inflammatory reaction contributes directly to their growth because newly activated immune cells constantly migrate into the altered vessel walls. When the plaques grow too large, they can burst, leading to blood clotting and are carried away by the bloodstream and can clog vessels. Possible consequences: Stroke or heart attack.
All of these studies stress the fact that no one should use their current weight or health as an excuse to remain unhealthy. Losing weight and staying healthy does have varied levels of difficulty for different people. However, it is the very act of making excuses and not making the right decisions that make things harder. Not only psychologically, but on a physical level.