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Obesity and Genetics

CHILDHOOD1 Childhood Obesity and Genetics Julianne Jackson September 26, 2011 CHILDHOOD2 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.

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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).

CHILDHOOD4 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 observations have important implications for recognition of risk and routine anticipatory guidance that is directed toward healthy eating and activity patterns in families (AAP August 2003). Childhood obesity is particularly troubling. The extra weight that children put on often starts them on a path to health problems that adults should only have to worry about. It’s a pity that a child should have to worry about having health conditions at a future time because of their weight. A child may be genetically predisposed to put on excess weight if he or she comes from a family of overweight people.

Obesity is highly heritable and arises from the interactions of multiple genes, environmental factors, and behavior (Epidemiol Rev 2007). There are genetic conditions known to be associated with obesity to include Prader-Willi syndrome (PWSA 2011), Bardet-Biedl syndrome (NCBI 2001), and Cohen syndrome (CSA 2011). In these conditions, early diagnosis allows collaboration with subspecialists, such as geneticists, endocrinologists, behavioralists, and nutritionists, to optimize growth and development while promoting healthy eating and activity patterns from a young age (AAP August 2003).

CHILDHOOD5 The development of obesity is complex and chronic, with behavioral, psychological, social, cultural, metabolic, and genetic factors. It differs from person to person depending on how one’s genotype (genetic code passed from one generation to another) interacts with environment. There is now a greater understanding that “obesity genes” and variations of them exist in the human genome, or genetic blueprint. Inheritance of an “obesity gene” is not necessarily a sentence to obesity, though, unless the gene is expressed that way.

Whether, how and when particular genes are expressed is determined by the epigenome. Currently a hot research topic in science and medicine, epigenetics explains how identical twins can be born with the exact same DNA and not develop identical health conditions, such as cancer or obesity, later in life. The epigenome essentially serves as the nexus between nature and nurture; it translates environmental stimuli (including nutrition, exposure to toxins, and maybe even our thoughts and feelings) into proteins that modulate or alter our gene expression.

What this means is that our genes do not determine our destinies, rather they indicate a predisposition to manifest in a certain way in response to various environmental and emotional stimuli; a myriad of lifestyle factors plays a significant role in whether genes are turned on or off, and thus how physicality manifests (Heart 2010). Early recognition of excessive weight gain can help combat obesity in the future. Today’s culture promotes bad eating habits that contribute to obesity and there are many CHILDHOOD6 ays adults can make sure their children do not become obese or reverse that bad cycle of obesity that is genetically passed on. Parents need to be educated buyers and chose food products wisely. Buying more fruits and vegetables and avoiding those enticing fast food chains like MacDonald’s is a good start. Foods that are rich in nutrients, with no added sugars, will help balance the blood sugar level. If the blood sugar level is controlled, your children won’t have a tendency to reach for a carbonated beverage or a candy bar to give them energy.

Starting a daily exercise program rather than sitting in front of the TV playing games, will show your children what good health is all about. Obesity in children is a very serious problem and should not be taken lightly. Every day the number of obese children increases dramatically as well as the health risks that go with it. It is not hard to live a healthy lifestyle and it should be a number one priority in all families. It is important to eat properly and exercise, one’s life depends on it.

Joining forces against obesity, First Lady Obama announced her Let’s Move Campaign against Childhood Obesity in 2010. In conjunction with the release of the action plan, Cabinet Members and Administration Officials will hold events across the country to highlight the importance of addressing childhood obesity. Mrs. Obama wants to help solve the problem in a generation so babies born today will come of age at a healthy weight. The report says that could happen if childhood obesity rates dropped to 5 percent by 2030.

CHILDHOOD7 “For the first time, the nation will have goals, benchmarks and measureable outcomes that will help us tackle the childhood obesity epidemic one child, one family and one community at a time,” Mrs. Obama said. “We want to marshal every resource – public and private sector, mayors and governors, parents and educators, business owners and health care providers, coaches and athletes – to ensure that we are providing each and every child the happy, healthy future they deserve. (Superville, 2010) Unfortunately, the solutions to prevent obesity won’t be easy, and the problem is likely to get worse. Part of the solution should involve re-introducing mandatory physical activities in the public schools, especially in middle schools and high schools. Moreover, parents can take a more proactive role encouraging their kids to remain active, even taking part in physical activity with them in some instances. Parents even can develop creative ways to help their children become more physically active.

Studies have shown obese children have an exceptionally hard time losing weight and following through with lifestyle changes in adulthood when their health, and even their lives, may depend on them all the more reason why parents should encourage their children to remain physically active throughout their childhood. As we close let me assure you, if your child’s obesity is caused by genetics, you can’t change his or her genes but you can certainly change their behavior. Any small victory in weight loss can result in positive effects to their health and well being.

According to Eiholzer (2002) instead of simple food restriction, a consistent upbringing appears to be the most promising way forward. Such counseling for educational behavior CHILDHOOD8 might also be an efficient way to prevent obesity in families with a genetic risk of obesity. What’s reassuring is that heading off childhood obesity may be easier than you think. While genes play a part in the tendency to put on pounds, diet and lifestyle make a huge difference. The earlier you take preventive steps, the better. CHILDHOOD9 References

AAP (American Academy of Pediatrics) August 2003. http://aappolicy. aappublications. org/cgi/content/full/pediatrics;112/2/424#R51 CDC 2011 (Center for Disease Control and Prevention) 2011. http://www. cdc. gov/obesity/data/trends. html CSA (Cohen Syndrome Association) 2011. http://cohen-syndrome. org/ Dietz, W. H. (2002). Childhood and Adolescent Obesity: Causes and Consequences, Prevention and Management http://site. ebrary. com/lib/ashford/docDetail. action? docID=10069992;p0 0=obesity%20genetics Eiholzer, Urs (Editor); Allemand, Dagmar (Editor); Zipf, William B. (Editor).

Prader-Willi Syndrome as a Model for Obesity : International Symposium, Zurich, October 18-19, 2002. http://site. ebrary. com/lib/ashford/Doc? id=10047359;ppg=197 GDF (Genetic Disease Foundation) 2011. http://www. geneticdiseasefoundation. org/genetic-diseases/prader-willi-syndrome/? _kk=prader%20willi%20disease;_kt=44663b98-5847-4903-b9ed-49a73baf7c37;gclid=CJH8hcrY_KoCFc832godPhVR3A CHILDHOOD10 References Heart MD Institute, PA 2010. Destined for Obesity? http://www. heartmdinstitute. com/health-concerns/diabetes-obesity/overcoming-obesity International Journal of Obesity (2005) 29, 1149–1152 ttp://www. nature. com/ijo/journal/v29/n10/pdf/0803056a. pdf NCBI (National Center for Biotechnology Information) Jan-Feb 2001. http://www. ncbi. nlm. nih. gov/pubmed/11225476 Superville, D. (2010). Michelle Obama Announces Let’s Move Campaign’s Childhood Obesity Guidelines. http://www. letsmove. gov Retrieved from Huffington Post Yang, W. , Kelly T. , and He, J. Genetic Epidemiology of Obesity, Epidemiol Rev 2007. http://epirev. oxfordjournals. org/content/29/1/49. abstract WSA (Prader-Willi Syndrome Association) 2011. http://www. pwsausa. org/


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