Do Genetics Cause Obesity?

It’s an age-old question, and one that many scientists have attempted to answer. Is there a gene that makes an individual more likely to be obese?

Unlike several diseases like Huntington’s and Tay-Sachs that are caused by a single gene error, there is no one gene that we can blame obesity on. There are thousands of factors—and genes—that contribute to obesity.

Sekar Kathiresan, a cardiologist at Harvard and a geneticist at the Broad Institute, and a team of experts set out to determine a genetic pattern for obesity. They hoped to find an answer for why some people struggle to lose or keep the weight off, or are prone to being obese.

Despite their large pool of subjects and millions of genes they analyzed, the findings weren’t conclusive. There was no genetic pattern that led to obesity.

Instead, the study found that the impacts to genetics starts at age 3. This means that preventing obesity starts much earlier in life than we all thought. Prevention of obesity was most successful when healthy lifestyle patterns were taught early in life.

Some of the study’s experts are disappointed that so much money is being poured into genetic analysis for obesity. Instead, they suggest an emphasis on a change to environmental factors, lifestyles, and behaviors that contribute to obesity, and teaching these to our children at young ages.

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