October 20, 2016

The Culprit of Obesity: Genes or Diet?

Phoney Nickle

Patients often ask whether their genes predispose them to obesity, Type 2 diabetes, or heart disease.

My answer is, rarely; it happens much less than we might think.

A familial history of obesity or chronic disease does not render us powerless. We needn’t sit back and accept that we’re doomed to become fat and sick.

In a comprehensive study on genes and obesity, researchers identified 32 different genes that can contribute to obesity. Even in the incredibly rare case we actually had all 32 genes, they would only account for 22 pounds of extra weight.

Even in that unlikely scenario, we aren’t doomed. We don’t have to accept that familial disposition to certain conditions means getting them becomes inevitable. By eating well and exercising, we can completely prevent obesity or Type 2 diabetes, what I collectively call diabesity.

Our body, not genetics, becomes the best way to gauge how we should eat. We must pay attention to how we feel after eating certain foods. Are we alert, vibrant, with abundant energy, or are we feeling sluggish, bloated, and in a fog?

Interestingly, once we heal the body and reverse diabesity, we may be able to handle more varieties of foods as our body becomes more resilient.

Ultimately, everyone is different and has different biochemical needs. While some people have genes predetermined for obesity, Type 2 diabetes, and other complications, there is never any reason to lose hope.

Regardless of genetic and other conditions, everyone can start with these five principles for weight loss and optimal health.

  1. Focus on eating real, whole foods. Eat plenty of non-starchy vegetables, some lower-sugar fruits if we can tolerate them, grass-fed meats, pastured chicken and eggs, and wild-caught fish. Avoid processed sugars and refined carbohydrates.
  2. Eat plenty of healthy fats like avocados, coconut oil, nuts and seeds, extra-virgin olive oil, and some grass-fed butter. Eating healthy fats helps burn fat by speeding up our metabolism. Our cells and brain also require fat to function at optimally.
  3. Control stress levelsBeing constantly stressed out wrecks havoc on our health, hormones, and weight. Find something that helps taper down stress, whether that means yoga, meditation, or deep breathing.
  4. Get adequate sleep. Sleep deprivation makes us fat and contributes to depression, pain and inflammation, heart disease, diabetes, and many more health issues. Getting at least seven to eight hours of sleep is vital to optimal health. Avoid exposure to artificial light from smart phones, television, and other electronics too close to bedtime. Grab 19 of my top sleep tips here.
  5. Exercise regularly. Get on a regular exercise routine. We can’t exercise our way out of a bad diet, but exercise does make our cells and muscles more sensitive to insulin, which means less inflammation and less body fat, especially dangerous belly fat.

In a nutshell, our lifestyle and food choices are much better indicators of health and weight than our genes.

We can create optimal weight and metabolism and reverse most chronic disease. Some of us have to work a bit harder, but for almost everyone it’s possible.

If you have a family history of obesity, diabetes or other chronic diseases, what natural strategy did you take to overcome your condition? Share your story below or on my Facebook page.


Author: Dr. Mark Hyman

Image: Phoney Nickle/Flickr

Editor: Emily Bartran 


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