FOOD, FACTS and FADS

Exploring the sense and nonsense of food and health

The Obesity Epidemic: Nature or Nurture?

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Fat shaming is found in many aspects of our culture. The obese are described as fat and lazy and looked upon with disdain by even some of the health professionals they seek out to solve many of their health care needs. Perhaps we need to examine the complexities of the interactions that may have contributed to this so-called obesity epidemic to gain a better understanding of what the obese population has to contend with.

In 1960, only 13.4 % of Americans were overweight or obese. By 1990, about 23% were obese, and today, only two decades later, almost 36% are obese. Obesity affects both men and women and all racial and ethnic groups. As far as we know, we still had the same genes and physiology during these decades; however, the food environment or culture had obviously changed.

“The interplay between genetics and lifestyle is often illustrated by the higher incidence of obesity in Pima Indians living in Arizona than in a genetically similar group of Pima Indians living in Mexico. When this genetic susceptibility is combined with an environment that fosters a sedentary lifestyle and consumption of a calorie dense diet, the outcome is the strikingly high incidence of obesity seen in this population. The Pima Indians of Mexico are farmers who work in the fields and consume the food they grow. On the other hand, the Arizona Pima eat the high-calorie, high-fat processed foods,  found in the Standard American Diet (SAD) and lead a more sedentary lifestyle. Both groups have  higher rates of obesity due to their genetic susceptibility; however, the average BMI or the Mexican Pima is significantly lower than that of their American counterparts.” Smolin and Grosvenor, Nutrition: Science and Applications, Third Edition.

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