Genes R US — Keeping weight off no cake-walk; genetics add to that challenge
Posted: Wednesday, May 16, 2012 5:00 pm
Probably everyone is sick and tired of hearing about the obesity epidemic. You know, how we have super-sized ourselves and our kids with super-sized meals and super-sized periods of sitting. Two weekends ago it was hard for me to watch one grandson spend so much time playing Xbox and another grandson guzzling high calorie energy drinks.
The Center for Disease Control released the following figures as part of their 2011 Children’s Food Environment State Indicator Report:
• HS Students Who Drank ≥1 Soda/Day
U.S. Average: 29.2; TN: 41.3
• HS Students Who Watched 3+ Hours of TV/Day
U.S. Average: 32.8; TN: 37.7
• Children Ages 6-17 with TV in Bedroom
U.S. Average: 50.2; TN: 61.2
•Children Ages 12-17 Not Eating Family Meals Most Days of Week
U.S. Average: 30.7; TN: 35.1
Those numbers are scary. How is it that we are too busy to prepare and sit down for dinner-but find time for TV viewing later?
Now let’s throw in genetics into the mix. The days of weather-based famine are largely over in first world countries. The same genes that helped us store fat during times of plenty as insurance against times of famine have become our nemesis.
A study, published this month in Nature Genetics, identified several new genetic markers that increase the chances of childhood obesity. The study also verified that the majority of genetic risk markers found for adults were risk markers for kids, too.
Body mass index (BMI) takes into account both height and weight. If a child is over eighty-five percent the mean BMI for his age group, he is considered obese. A good calculator for children and teens BMI is http://1.usa.gov/brBSIS. You can find one for yourself on the same page.
Just like adults, obesity in children is associated with type-2 diabetes and biomarkers for heart problems, such as high blood pressure and high cholesterol.
There is an increased risk for asthma and poor self-esteem, too. I see far too many adults of all ages in nursing homes with limb loss, due to type-2 diabetes, to ever make friends with that disease. It makes me very sad.
Scientists believe that we inherit 40 to 80 percent of our risk for obesity from our DNA. Current scientific knowledge can only account for about eleven percent of that genetic risk. But what we do know is significant.
People can take two approaches to genetic information about their health. One group “goes ostrich” and wants no knowledge. Then there are others, who like me want to know the good, bad, and the ugly. Why? Because information is a motivator for us.
If you know that you are at high genetic risk, you may have passed that risk along to your kids-in which case-your behavioral example becomes even more important!
Of the genetic variations that predispose children toward obesity, in some cases we know the function of the protein that the gene (or closest gene) codes for. In other cases, we just know that certain SNPs are associated with obesity. One high risk SNP in gene FTO predicts more eating episodes per day.
Consider one new gene OLFM4 found to impact children. Certain versions (or alleles) decrease ones immunity to infection by H. pylori-the ulcer bacteria.
It is well known that overweight people have more problems with H. pylori. Obesity surgery pretty much eradicates H. pylori infections in previously obese people. Other obesity high-risk genes are known to impact gut bacteria balances.
For the three top genetic markers most, highly associated with adult obesity, I lucked out on the top one and lost the draw on the next two. I am homozygous-that is, both parents gave me the same risky SNP for all these three markers.
After my first year and a half in West Tennessee, a more relaxed lifestyle and southern comfort foods introduced me to my first non-pregnancy 20-pound weight gain. Thanks to last December’s flu and cutting back on my own homemade desserts, I have lost half of that 20-pound gain. My motivation was noticing that I was just one pound shy of moving from the normal BMI to the overweight BMI category.
Literally, it is no cake-walk keeping weight off here. Bringing home a pineapple-chess pie and a pineapple upside down cake, from a bake sale Saturday night — in a moment of weakness-already moved the scale up 2 pounds by Monday morning. There is no such thing as “just” desserts, in my case. Double pineapple bummer!
Nancy@ Nancy-MillerLatimer.com has worked in scientific research and development for 27 years. She blogs at NeuronalBeauty.BlogSpot.com Published in The Messenger 5.16.12