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Is Obesity a Genetic or a Behavioral Disorder?

Is Obesity a Genetic or a Behavioral Disorder?
September 17, 2009 Patrick Nemechek, D.O.

Clearly there are strong genetic influences on body fatness.Ā  But what’s really inherited is the rank order of body fatness compared to the the people who have a lifestyle that’s similar to yours.

If both your parents were 200 pounds, that does not mean that you are destined to be 200 pounds. But if both your parents were heavier than 75 percent of their friends who had similar lifestyles, then you’re likely to have more body fat than 75 percent of the people who have a lifestyle that’s similar to yours.

You could make an analogy using baseball players.Ā Ā  Say you decided that there were too many home runs hit in baseball.Ā Ā  Your plan might be to reduce the number of home runs by extending the outfield fence of every baseball stadium in the country back another 20 yards.

You would see a reduction in the number of home runs, but the rank order of home run hitters would not change very much.Ā  You would still have the major home run stars like Babe Ruth at the top of the list,Ā  and you would still have the pitchers (notoriously bad hitters) at the bottom of the list.

Genetics is not the major factor in respect to how much excess body fat you have; it simply helps explain some of the minor differences we see when we compare ourselves to others with the same lifestyle.

The quality of that lifestyle that you choose to live is up to you and directly affects the amount of body fat you will carry on your body.

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