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Nature Tops Nurture? Scientists Wrong Again…

Posted By Mark Sisson On February 8, 2008 @ 2:32 pm In Gene Expression,Health,Hype,Personal Improvement | 19 Comments

They just don’t get it. Maybe they never will.

Reader Karen was outraged enough to send us a link [7] to a news story on MSNBC that states “Nature tops nurture for heavy kids, study says. Research on twins finds that weight is 77 percent attributable to genes.” Thanks, Karen.

Read the abstract here [8].

Once again, the message is, “If you’re fat, it’s not your fault and there’s little you can do about it.” Bullshit. Here’s yet another theory-biased analysis that leads one to believe genes are destiny. They are not. MDA readers, please embrace this concept: You have far more control over how your genes express themselves than has ever been thought possible. Everything you eat, every move you make, every thought you think, every breath you breathe influences gene expression. Who we become is NOT immutable, NOT carved in stone, NOT a result of choosing your parents wisely. Environment and behavior are the MAJOR influences of your health, fitness, appearance and longevity. Most of you have already had a direct experience of this.

Ironically, in an editorial in the opening pages of the same journal regarding the finding, the editorial author seems to point this out:

The report by Wardle et al opens with a rather sweeping statement that the obesity epidemic is “clearly due to changes in the environment, because genes have not altered.” Evidence in the literature to the contrary suggests the possibility of changes in the genetic background of contemporary populations by factors such as assortative mating, selection (eg, increased fecundity of moderately overweight persons), demographic changes (9), and epigenetic effects (10, 11) and that these changes could be relevant in humans as well. These changes should not be dismissed out of hand.

via The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition [9]

So I guess they get it, but they just need to prove that genes are the major drivers? Look, I won’t argue with the fact that there are some genetic predispositions to a fairly wide range of possible outcomes, but to think that obesity is unrelated to the amount of carbohydrate consumption, total caloric intake, maladaptive foods (grains, milk, trans fats), lack of exercise or even levels of stress is preposterous. You will start seeing more and more talk of the science of epigenetics – the “switches” that actually turn genes on and off – and the huge influence environment has on the epigenome (even to the extent that epigenetics can be passed on from parent to child such that what your grandmother ate can have an effect on how you develop). Yet they cling to the hope that your destiny is, well, hopeless. I leave you with the pictures of the two German identical twins Otto and Ewald who simply chose different physical behaviors and look pretty different as a result.

Just had to get this off my chest.

Photo Credit: Michael J. Rennie [10] (PDF)

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