Obesity is in the genes

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James Corden. Credit: Kevin Mazur Getty Images

(Jeffrey M. Friedman/ Scientific American) — In a recent monologue, the comedian James Corden addressed his struggles with being overweight. Despite his best efforts, he said, he has never been able to control his weight confessing that he has “good days and bad months.”

The monologue was a response to an on-air editorial by Bill Maher, who argued that fat shaming needs to make a comeback, excoriating the obese for their lack of self-control. Which of them was correct? Are the obese to blame for their condition?

No. Recent research has revealed that obesity is to a very large extent encoded in our genes.

Indeed, studies of identical twins reveal that the heritability of obesity ranges between 70–80 percent, a level that is exceeded only by height and is greater than for many conditions that people accept as having a genetic basis. While there has also been an overall increase in the prevalence of obesity over the last several decades, it is the particular set of weight-regulating genes that a person inherits that determines who is lean and who is obese in 2019 America. (…)

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