Link: Obesity on the rise

The National Post of Canada has a long article by Sharon Kirkey on the rise of obesity: “The shape of the future: Is obesity a crisis or just the latest stage of evolution?” It’s a nice piece that covers both genetics, the history of how we approach fat, and the changing views of fatness in society. I’ll be assigning it to my introductory students this semester.

This nice quote about the complexity of the relationship of FTO to obesity could have used a bit more explanation:

But many researchers are convinced basic genetics — not how we (or our mothers) behave — is the biggest driver of obesity, accounting for as much as 80 per cent of the risk of carrying excess weight. Their challenge is to tease out which genes among the 21,000 that make up the human body play a major role in “food-seeking behaviour,” satiety, cravings, and how our body stores and distributes fat.
The leader today is the FTO, the fat mass and obesity-associated gene that regulates appetite. People who inherit one copy of the FTO mutations (possibly as many as one in six people of European descent) have a 30 per cent higher risk of obesity; two copies, and the risk increases 7o per cent.
Even more remarkable, that risk appears to have changed over time. In a study published in 2014, researchers found people born before 1942 did not show an association between the risk variant and obesity. Those born later did.

The gene by environment interaction here is one of the most fascinating topics in human genetics.

Yes, there’s also some stuff about the thrifty genotype and caveman diets in there as well.