Obesity – Learned Behavior or Inherited?

Studies have shown that emotional eating in childhood is largely shaped by the home family environment. Parents are therefore promising intervention targets. Leading by example is critical in teaching our children proper nutrition and exercise habits. It’s not surprising that you’ll often find obese parents have obese children. In order to break the cycle, it’s critical for our own health and that of future generations to get and stay fit otherwise we risk passing along our bad habits to our children.

However, there is also research that indicates the likelihood of obesity has inherited risks as well.

Investigators recently combined and re-analyzed the data from 45 studies in adults and 9 studies in children-nearly 240,000 people in all. (1) They found that people who carried the obesity-promoting FTO gene variant had a 23 percent higher risk of obesity than those who did not. But once again, being physically active lowered the risk: Active adults who carried the obesity-promoting gene had a 30 percent lower risk of obesity than inactive adults who carried the gene.

Studies in the link of genetic obesity have increasingly found that simply being genetically predisposed to obesity does not guarantee one will be overweight. Environmental and social behavior can have an overriding impact on a person’s fitness. Proper nutrition and exercise will almost always overcome a genetic tendency to obesity.

The takeaway from the research is that obesity tends to be a learned behavior more than genetic. Parents therefore have an enormous impact on their children’s physical fitness and eating habits. Just as with most aspects of a child’s development, parents must lead by example. If you’re currently struggling with poor nutrition and a lack of exercise, make it a priority to reverse the trend now. You may be changing not only your health but the health of the generations that follow you.

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