Obesity and Genetics

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Childhood Obesity and Genetics
Julianne Jackson
September 26, 2011


Obesity, in my opinion, is caused by genetics and can also be hereditary. I chose this topic because my grandchildren are both overweight as are most of their fraternal relatives. We all know that childhood obesity is extremely unhealthy and can be very harmful for our nation’s children, not to mention that obesity can cause severe psychological problems. “The epidemic of obesity is not yet viewed with the urgency it demands” (Dietz 2002). There is not one single cause of childhood overweight, rather it is a complex interaction of many variables. Contributing factors include genetics, behavior, environment, and certain socio-demographics. Did you know that about one-third of U.S. adults (33.8%) are obese? According to the CDC (Center for Disease Control and Prevention) approximately 17% (or 12.5 million) of children and adolescents aged 2—19 years are obese (CDC 2011). During the past 20 years, there has been a dramatic increase in obesity in the United States and rates remain high. In 2010, no state had a prevalence of obesity less than 20%. Thirty-six states had a prevalence of 25% or more; 12 of these states (Alabama, Arkansas, Kentucky, Louisiana, Michigan, Mississippi, Missouri, Oklahoma, South Carolina, Tennessee, Texas, and West Virginia) had a prevalence of 30% or more (CDC 2011). Research has been conducted through the internet, the Ashford Library, Symposiums, Scholarly Journals, and various news articles pertaining to obese children of all ages, both boys and girls of all races and genders across all of the United States and socioeconomic lines. CHILDHOOD3

Are you obese? When you hear the word obese the thought that comes to your mind is overweight, big, fat, or even unhealthy. In fact there was a time when children were considered cute and adorable if they were chunky. Obesity is defined by body mass index (BMI) which is a number that is calculated from a person’s weight and height. Your BMI provides a reliable indicator of body fatness for most people and is used to screen for weight categories that may lead to health problems (CDC 2011). Having a BMI between 85th and 95th percentile for age and sex is considered at risk of overweight, and BMI at or above the 95th percentile is considered overweight or obese. Childhood obesity can have a harmful effect on the body now as well as later in life. Obese children are more likely to have high blood pressure and high cholesterol, an increased risk of glucose tolerance and Type 2 diabetes. Other associated problems are breathing problems, joint problems, fatty liver disease, and not to mention social and psychological problems (CDC 2011).

There have been many scientific advances in the genetics of early onset obesity (International Journal of Obesity 2005). Certain genetic characteristics may increase an individual’s susceptibility to excess body weight, however, there are likely to be many genes involved and a strong interaction between genetics and environment that influences the degree of excess body weight. It has been shown that overweight tends to run in families suggesting a genetic link. In some cases, parental obesity is a stronger predictor of childhood overweight than the child’s weight status alone (GDF 2011).

It has long been recognized that obesity "runs in families"—high birth weight, maternal diabetes, and obesity in family members all are factors—but there are likely to be multiple genes and a strong interaction between genetics and environment that influence the degree of adiposity. For young children, if 1 parent is obese, the odds ratio is approximately 3 for obesity in adulthood, but if both parents are obese, the odds ratio increases to more than 10. Before 3 years of age, parental obesity is a stronger predictor of obesity in adulthood than the child’s weight status. Such...
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