Genetics Explains Up To 50% Of Modern-day Obesity

Genetics Explains Up To 50% Of Modern-day Obesity

Genetics and a blue DNA chain

Many people on social media advocate a condescending tone to people who are out of shape, suggesting that they “just don’t want it bad enough” or that “if they can do it so can you”.

This stems from the mindset that we all have the same ability to undergo change and also assumes that we all experience reality in the same way. Without getting too philosophical, the main point is that we all experience the urge for various foods differently, and we also experience the pleasurable taste of various foods differently. This variation in experience is largely due to genetic variations, but also due to the environment around us.

The importance of genetics has been studied by comparing how often siblings who grow up together have a similar weight (called degree of concordance). Identical twins show a concordance of 70%, non-identical twins show 32%, and siblings who aren’t twins around the same age show 25%. The trend clearly shows that the more similar the genes, the more likely that the individuals weigh the same. It is estimated that 40-70% of all obesity today is linked to genetics.

These genes were able to keep us in shape a few hundred years ago, but aren’t able to confront modern day environmental exposure to junk food. Genes affect many factors such as metabolism, body composition, but also personality traits including motivation, discipline and tendency to seek out food. You should therefore be humble when assuming that someone else can do what you have done; you do not have the same prerequisites!

This article was an excerpt from Diet Like A Doctor.


Maes HH. Genetic and environmental factors in relative body weight and human adiposity. Behav Genet. 1997 Jul;27(4):325-51.

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