We’re all well aware of rising obesity rates in children and what that means in later life; most of us also get the fact that calorie dense food is cheaper than healthy foods, making fast food all too often a “go-to” source for nourishment.
However, there’s more to childhood obesity than environmental factors. Numerous studies have shown that there is a strong genetic component to the equation; if a child has one obese parent, he’s 40% more likely to become obese, while a child with two obese parents is 80% more likely to become overweight or obese.
One of the most recent studies regarding the role genetic predisposition plays in obesity was published online by JAMA Pediatrics on February 17. The research shows that obesity genes affect the appetite’s regulatory system by making it more difficult to refrain from over eating. Additionally, the gene causes a “low satiety response,” meaning a child with this particular predisposition may not feel satisfied with healthy portion sizes.
This current study reinforces earlier studies that show a causal link between certain genetic anomalies and adiposity. In 2009, the University of Cambridge conducted a study of 300 obese children – – the researchers focused on the complete genomes of the children who participated in the study. Many of the children were missing a gene in chromosome 16 — this chromosomal breakdown causes a strong desire to eat, the team discovered.
The latest study emphasizes the fact that health care providers need to consider the possibility of genetic predisposition in young patients who are obese; doing so may have a positive impact on how much exercise these children should engage in to compensate for increased calorie intake. Additionally, they may be able to encourage parents and caregivers to focus more on healthy food choices, keeping fast food consumption to a minimum.