Obesity Proven Genetic So Why Do People Refuse to Accept It?

Obesity Proven Genetic so why People Refuse to Accept?

Multiple brand new studies have come out in the last several weeks that prove obesity is genetic in many people, but some members of the public refuse to accept the findings, and that could pose a big hurdle for scientists in continuing their research. Scientists in the field have been tirelessly laboring to prove the link between genes and obesity, and now their hard work is beginning to pay off. However, the public’s refusal to acknowledge that obesity is not the fault of the afflicted person is going to be very difficult to overcome.

A new study last week published in the Journal of Clinical Investigation showed that a common gene known as “FTO” is often mutated. When this mutation occurs, people feel much hungrier and crave fatty food at the same time. This week, a second study was published in the journal Science. That study showed that a different mutated gene is responsible for failing to burn calories at the same rate as those with the gene correctly in place. This means that even when eating the same amount of calories, the bodies of people with the mutated gene will not burn the same amount of calories at the same rate as those who have the gene intact.

These two new studies join a long line of studies that link obesity to genetics, but many people aren’t buying it. Comments under news articles include: “Blaming fatness on genetics is a lazy person excuse,” and “genes might play a part, but too often obese people look for an excuse for their weight. It just means they should try harder to stay in shape and not eat so much.”

A physician commenting under a story on CBS news said “It’s difficult to take care of patients who simply refuse to help themselves. When I tell them that their Back pain, high blood pressure, knee pain, and diabetes could be improved by diet and exercise, the excuse matrix begins.”

Commenter “William Passting,” in response to one of the articles about genetic causes of obesity, said “Just what we need, another excuse for someone to use as to why they are fat as they are downing another bucket of chicken.”

Commenter Donkat had this nugget of wisdom: “Of course it’s all hereditary!!  If you’re lazy  and don’t want to work, it’s in the JEANS.  If you’d rather overeat and under exercise, it’s in the jeans.  If you’d rather be a bleeding liberal without any logical sense of purpose, it’s in the jeans…Now days if I’m a couch potato it must be hereditary as my father and grandfather were couch potatos also.  Six generations living off welfare!  They like free handouts!  Must be hereditary!  It’s all a bunch of bull crap of justification trying to ligitimize behavior or conditions that might take alittle effort to change.” (sic)

Clearly, researchers are going to have a major battle with public opinion as they attempt to unravel the mystery of obesity. But why are people so apt to dismiss the evidence? Luckily, some scientists may have the answer. Multiple studies have shown that people rely on what’s called “motivated reasoning,” that is, their pre-existing beliefs shape the way they consider new evidence. In some people, their pre-existing beliefs are so strong, nothing can change them, not even reams of data.  Emotion wins out over reason, and instead of thinking through the new evidence, people find it more comfortable to stay rooted in the familiar.

This can inhibit science in a number of ways, including the fact that pre-existing beliefs create an overall societal atmosphere of unpopularity for a particular subject. This can, in turn, build a culture where research on a particular topic is less likely to get funded. Persuading the public to get behind and back a research project can be next to impossible if no one thinks the outcomes of the project are valid.

Comment such as the ones above represent a tiny fraction of the thousands of comments, letters and blog posts online about how fat people are lazy, selfish pigs who seek excuses for their terrible behavior. One person even said that articles about the genetic research are “dangerous” because they “give people an excuse for being fat.” It appears it’s going to take researchers an enormous amount of time to turn these types of opinions into ones based on facts rather than emotions.

By: Rebecca Savastio


Source: Pubmed

Source: Health and Times

Source: The Guardian Express

Source: Time

Source: New York Times

Source: CBS

Source: Mother Jones

4 Responses to "Obesity Proven Genetic So Why Do People Refuse to Accept It?"

  1. PCL   July 21, 2013 at 6:43 pm

    People can born with all kinds of genetic dispositions toward destructive (and particularly self-destructive) behavior. Addiction (including alcoholism) is the most well known, but genetics affect all kinds of behaviors, bad and good. There are people locked up because their genes make them prone to violence, people who spend compulsively because of their genes, people who pick at themselves, don’t bathe, gamble compulsively, etc. For just about every bad behavior, some genetic influence has or likely will be found. But the overweight (at least some of them) are are one of the few groups claiming that because of a genetic component (that can sometimes, though not always be overcome with behavior modification and will power) in their self-destruction, it should be not just tolerated, but fully accommodated, accepted and embraced. I don’t want to see fat people excluded from anything just for the sake of punishment, but when they demand that everything (cars, isles, buses, amusement park ride vehicles, etc.) be made bigger, that the public alter its notion of beauty (as if that were possible) and pretend to want to see “large people” in movies and on TV, that billions in added health care costs be spread amongst the general population with no expectations in return, they are going too far. I believe that the behavior of the food industry, parents, the education system and the individuals themselves need to change in order to reverse this trend (there were very few seriously obese people 100 years ago). I’d be happy to see any and all medical devices and drugs (even gene therapy) that might make weight loss easier be made available. But I’m not willing to pretend that the overweight, or the those addicted to dangerous drugs, or any other sufferers of self destructive behavior, are going to have the same opportunities in society as healthier individuals.

  2. J   July 21, 2013 at 4:33 am

    Agreed Rebecca… for some people they can work their butts off at the gym and at home and not loose a single thing.. maybe a couple of inches but that’s it.. while i go by the saying work hard to play hard.. all of us who are over weight are NOT all lazy and uses our genes as an excuse to not lose the weight… it;s ashame people are so judgmental based on looks in society today just remember looks fade over time… g hughes there is a difference between people who ARE lazy and do nothing to get themselves in the obese and the ones who just grow up with it and that is where yo yo dieting comes into play.. you should live in their shoes before you make a statement and you probably never had to deal with.

  3. Rebecca Savastio   July 19, 2013 at 9:20 pm

    @G. Hughes: Try this- Don’t eat for three or four days. Then, strap a 150 pound rock to your back and go to the gym and try to exercise. This will mimic what obese people feel. After you experience that, come back and comment on your experience.

  4. G. Hughes   July 19, 2013 at 4:21 pm

    Ok, so these are 2 things I got out of this story… 1) “When this mutation occurs, people feel much hungrier and crave fatty food at the same time.” People have “cravings” all the time. For tobacco, alcohol, drugs, and other addictions. However, most people can overcome cravings with a little self control and help. No excuse for being fat. 2) “This means that even when eating the same amount of calories, the bodies of people with the mutated gene will not burn the same amount of calories at the same rate as those who have the gene intact.” Will not burn the same amount of calories AT THE SAME RATE. So, they have to work a little harder at the gym but can eventually lose the weight, it will just take longer than an average person. With these two nuggets of wisdom gleaned from years of study, hours of research, and tons of money from the government wasted, I can see how people can make comments like the ones in the story.


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