Obesity affects one in six children and teens in the United States, and the condition is linked to a range of health problems, including lower life expectancy. While in the past "laziness" and "overeating" were touted as the cause of obesity, researchers have now identified another cause: genes.
If you have a history of obesity in your family and you want to protect your child from this condition, you may want to have your child genetically tested. This can help you determine if your child has a propensity toward obesity, and it can help move you in the right direction toward fighting it.
How can genetics affect obesity?
Your genes or DNA can affect your risk of being obese in a number of ways. According to genetic scientists, your genes affect your appetite control. Some people are genetically more likely to feel full and instinctively know they should stop eating, while others can just keep snacking without that warning signal from their body to stop.
Genes can also affect how your fat tissue forms. For example, some people are simply more likely to turn extra calories to fat than others. In prehistoric times when resources were scarce, this trait could be a lifesaver, but unfortunately, in the modern world with ready access to food, this trait becomes unhealthy.
Finally, your genes can affect your insulin regulation and your body's ability to control its temperature. If your child lacks the latter, he or she is likely to feel cold more often, and when people feel cold, they tend to eat to boost their energy levels and temperatures. There are a number of different genes that can be involved in this process.
How does genetic testing help?
If you have your child's genes tested for obesity markers, you know without a doubt whether or not your child is likely to be overweight. In fact, the presence of the obesity gene is linked with a 23 percent chance of being overweight. However, that doesn't just mean that you need to give up and let your child gain weight freely.
Instead, if your child tests positive for obesity genes, you need to implement a counter attack.
How can people stay healthy if they have a genetic risk of obesity?
Although the genetic markers for obesity are very real, you can fight against them, and one study of hundreds of thousands of adults and children shows that with exercise, you or your child can reduce your risk of becoming obese by 30 percent. You simply need to exercise and eat a relatively healthy diet.
How much do you have to exercise?
If you find out your child has a propensity for obesity, you don't necessarily have to sign him or her up for a gym and remove all the potato chips and butter from your home. Instead, you can take a more moderate approach and try to make all of your lives more active.
According to a study of Amish people, if you are active for approximately three to four hours per day, you are unlikely to become obese regardless of whether or not you have the genetic marker for it.
Based on this study, the physical activity you do doesn't have to be extremely strenuous. In the case of the Amish, they stay healthy by walking instead of using motorized transportation solutions. They also tend to have active jobs such as woodworking instead of sitting at a desk. Even housework or taking care of kids can help.
To keep your child active, park far from school and have them walk to the front door of the school. Take leisurely family bike rides after dinner, have tickle fights before bed and put a trampoline in front of your TV. You can also sign up your child for gymnastics, rock climbing or other active classes, but don't overlook the importance of creating an active routine in your life in general.
For more questions and answers on how genetic testing can help your child sidestep the obesity epidemic, contact genetic testing companies.