September 9, 2008

In The News: Genetics? Environment? Why Not A Little Bit Of Both?

Much like certain areas of sociology and psychology, the question of “nature versus nurture” permeates nutrition – or at least the consistently hot button issue of obesity.

A new study published in the Archives of Internal Medicine gives both factors the attention they equally deserve.

The end result?

“Vigorous physical activity can help even people genetically prone to obesity keep the weight off.”

A team of researchers led by Dr. Soren Snitker of the University of Maryland and Dr. Evadnie Rampersaud of the University of Miami “focused their study on a group of 704 Old Order Amish men and women in Lancaster County, Pennsylvania.”

Okay, not the largest sample size, but that doesn't mean we can't extract some juice -- and talking points.

As it turns out, participants who had the obesity (FTO) gene and engaged in the least amount of physical activity were, not surprisingly, "significantly more likely" to be overweight or obese.

However, those participants genetically predisposed to obesity but physically active were not heavier than participants without said predisposition partaking in similar amounts of physical activity.

It’s worth pointing out that the most physically active genetically predisposed group was burning an additional 900 calories than their satient counterparts.

That’s another point for the “calories count” camp!

By the way, the physical activity did not involve treadmills, Stairmasters, Swiss medicine balls, or pullup bars -- just old-fashioned chores (i.e.: gardening, farming, and even working the land with horses and plough!).

Do you think this study can be considered relevant for us non-Amish folks?


Anonymous said...

No, and here's something that explains why:

If someone really thinks that it is fair and reasonable to demand of people that they exercise 3-4 hours a day simply because they had the misfortune to be born with a gene that makes them predisposed to be heavier, they are privileged jerks, frankly. So my heavy sister who probably has this variant should feel morally obligated to change her lifestyle and amp up her activity in a way that I shouldn't? What a load of elitist crap.

Andy Bellatti said...

I think you are taking the study a little too literally.

The recommendation isn't for everyone to engage in 4 hours of physical activity every day.

Rather, it shows that physical activity plays a role in weight management, even for people with a genetic predisposition to obesity.

The takeaway message here should be: Physical activity is just as important as overall diet.

WifeMomChocoholic said...

It's not at all relevant according to Sandy over at Junkfood Science...