Friday, June 10, 2011

Is Obesity the result of choice or genes?

However, surprisingly, data from adopted twin studies indicate that in the United States, about 80% of the variation in body weight is determined by genes. Again, that's about the same degree of heritability as a characteristic such as height, and much greater than that for other conditions that we now clearly regard as running in families, including breast cancer, schizophrenia and heart disease. Yet, we don't typically call a heart disease sufferer a weak-willed loser.
Brain-imaging studies of obese patients indicate that a genetically determined alteration in the brain's pleasure circuitry makes them crave food more while getting less pleasure from eating than those in a lean control group.

The idea that eating is an entirely conscious and voluntary behavior is deeply rooted in our culture. When we show compassion to the overweight, we must confront the difficult truth that we are not pure creatures of free will. We are — all of us — subject to powerful subconscious forces that influence our behavior.