Dr. Claude Bouchard, Professor at the Texas A and M University Institute for Advanced Study (TIAS), said that when someone says of an obese person, ‘They should just eat less and exercise more,’ he says if it were that simple, obesity wouldn’t be the worldwide epidemic that it is.

Bouchard, director of the Human Genomics Lab at Pennington Biomedical Research Center in Baton Rouge, La., studies the genetics of obesity and believes there are dozens of factors involved in determining whether or not a person becomes overweight or obese. Bouchard asserted that obesity is a complex problem because there are so many drivers and approaches focus on only a few and forget that while we control them there is compensation taking place elsewhere; there are other drivers that come into play.

He divides those drivers into four categories: social, environmental, behavioral and biological. Social factors include less access to nutritious foods, more recreational eating, powerful and constant advertising, large food portions, poor school meals, eating on the run, food pricing and fewer meals cooked at home. Our physical environment affects eating habits as well, said Bouchard, such as the absence of sidewalks, reliance on automobiles, building design and environmental pollutants.

Behavioral factors such as spending less time in strenuous activity, taking medications known to increase body weight, the absence of breast-feeding, eating corn fructose syrup, an increase in sedentary jobs and high-fat diets.?And biological factors such as genetics, viruses, gut microbiota, adipose tissue (body fat) biology, and metabolic rates can all affect weight and many are not within a person’s control.

Bouchard explained that the biology is very complex and the response to environmental, social and behavioral factors is conditional on the genotype of an individual.?”Your adaptation to a diet or a given amount of exercise is determined by your genes,” he asserted.

More research is needed, he said, but there is a strong probability that diet and exercise programs for weight control or disease prevention will one day be tailored to an individual’s genetic makeup.

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