Obesity is one of the health conditions that runs in families. Some of the reasons why are environmental, and have to do with patterns of behavior that a person learns from his or her family. Other factors that influence obesity have to do with genetics. Researchers have found what they are calling the “master switch” gene for obesity.
It has been established that if a person consumes more calories than the person burns, that this will lead to weight gain. We live in a society where it is easy to get large quantities of fast food for a very low price. Most of us have busy lives, and there are times when it is much easier to dash through the drive-thru than to take the time to cook a low calorie meal from fresh foods. The way a person is taught to eat when he or she is young, the types of food, and the portion sizes, become established habits that can continue through a person’s life.
One of the things that ties a family together is when they share a meal. The food you eat may be connected to associations with good memories of spending time with family. This, too, can cause some people to want to eat more of those foods than may be healthy. Another problem that is influencing obesity rates is that there are a lot of families who are living sedentary lives. There are people who go from childhood to adulthood without ever experiencing a bike ride or playing on a sports team. These are but a few of the environmental factors that can cause obesity to run in your family.
There are also genetic factors for obesity. The genes that you were born with come from your parents, who have genes that came from their parents, and so on, back through your ancestry. A study that was done by British researchers has revealed what they call the “master switch” that not only controls the genes that influence how much fat is in a person’s body, but also connects to genes that are linked to cholesterol and diabetes.
A team of researchers looked at over 20,000 genes that came from fat samples that were taken from under the skin of 800 British women. All of these women were twins. From this, the researchers found a link between a gene called KLF14 and the levels of other genes that were found in fat tissue. This meant that the KLF14 gene is acting like a “master switch” that controls the other genes. Researchers also took 600 fat samples from a group of people from Iceland, and got the same findings.
The KLF14 gene controls the processes that cause changes in the behavior of subcutaneous fat, and also to the disturbances in people’s muscles and liver that tend to contribute to diabetes (among other health conditions). In other words, obesity could run in your family because you all have something going on with your KLF14 gene.
Image by Tony Alter on Flickr