The American Society for Addiction Medicine held their annual conference in Toronto this past weekend. One of the attendees, Dr. Carolyn Ross spoke about the link between human genetics and obesity. In an interview with a local radio station, 680 News, Dr. Ross said that “70 per cent of obesity is genetic”.

Dr. Ross hopes that this linkage between obesity and genetics will ‘take away some of the stigma and shame associated with obesity’.

A related newspaper article appeared in this past Sunday’s Toronto Star. In this article, the link between anorexia nervosa and human genetics was discussed. In this article, the point was made that over the past 30 years, the rate of anorexia has remained unchanged while the rate of bulimia has risen sharply. The point being made here is that while bulimia may indeed be driven by a societal demand for thinness, anorexia may be driven by a genetic flaw.

While research into a genetic cause of anorexia (or bulimia, binge eating, etc) is only in it’s infancy, “results of the first genetic studies, released in the past five years, reveal that genetic vulnerability for anorexia nervosa lies on chromosome 1 of the 24 chromosomes that make up the human genome”.

So what do we take from this?

If Dr. Ross is correct and genetics has a huge impact on obesity, do we ignore the smaller role of our own behaviour? If you knew that you had inherited a genetic propensity towards obesity, do you give up trying to eat a healthy diet and engage in physical exercise? Do you wait for science to come up with a genetic cure?

While I agree with Dr. Ross that the social stigma attached to obesity is cruel and thoughtless ( if there is a genetic component to both obesity & cancer, why is it acceptable to mock the obese but not a cancer patient?), obese individuals still have to accept responsibility for their own health.

For every person who was born with a congenital leptin deficiency, there are thousands upon thousands of obese individuals who have a simple genetic predisposition towards obesity. A PREDISPOSITION.

Genetics is not Destiny.

Learn how to keep your body healthy, learn how to train your body to overcome cravings, eat well, exercise, and make the most with the genetic hand that you were dealt.

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