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Genetic Disposition For Obesity

The lifestyle of our ancestors has its marks on our epigenome, for the record of the chemical changes to our DNA, and what they ate, drank, smoked, whether they exercised or not, their stress and happiness levels, their temperaments and attitudes, all of these have affected our DNA. But the genetics alone is insufficient in explaining our health and disease status. The wellbeing of humans is the combined net effect of genetics and environmental factors. The lifestyle and environment introduces a kind of second code on top of the DNA, which can turn genes on or off. We are not slaves of our DNA, it is not our destiny; we can empower our DNA through positive changes in our lifestyle.

As the reality TV show “The Biggest Loser” has shown us, even the morbidly obese can lose weight when they follow a healthy eating plan and participate in moderately intense exercise on a regular basis. It’s not their genes that made them overweight in the first place but their bad lifestyle choices.

Research into identical twins has also revealed how siblings who share the exact same DNA can have totally different health outcomes when they live separate lives and choose different lifestyles. It’s what they do to their genes to express them (i.e. epigenetic modifications) that matters, not what their genes are made up of at birth. If the DNA sequence were all that mattered, identical twins would always be absolutely identical in every way.

Early in life, identical twins can be indistinguishable in the manner in which their genes are expressed. Among older sets of twins, however, significant differences in the gene-expression portraits are apparent. In addition, twins who spend the most time apart tend to have more divergent medical histories. Environmental factors, including smoking habits, physical activity levels and diet, can influence epigenetic patterns and may help explain how the same genotype can be translated in different ways.