Friday, July 19, 2013

Nature vs. nurture, part...

...whatever. Are you responsible for your height, hair color, etc.? Of course not. What about your weight? From an article in the Times today, "Overweight? Maybe You Really Can Blame Your Genes" (my emphasis):

Scientists have long thought explanations for why some people get fat might lie in their genes. They knew body weight was strongly inherited. Years ago, for example, they found that twins reared apart tended to have similar weights and adoptees tended to have weights like their biological parents, not the ones who reared them. As researchers developed tools to look for the actual genes, they found evidence that many — maybe even hundreds — of genes may be involved, stoking appetites, making people voraciously hungry.

“The history of obesity for many many years has been one of blaming people for lack of self control,” said Dr. Joseph Majzoub, chief of endocrinology at Boston Children’s Hospital and lead author of the new paper. “If some of it is due to a slow metabolism, that would completely change the perspectives of parents and patients. It really would change the way we think of the disease.” 

What if -- what if -- everything about us -- not just our physical characteristics -- is preprogrammed from birth? What if your life would have turned out much the way it did even if you were raised under completely different circumstances?

As I was walking through downtown Chicago on my way to the Taste recently, I noticed all kinds of people: fat, not-so-fat, good-looking, not-so-good-looking, those leaving work, some pan-handling, etc. And I thought to myself, What if everyone really is doing the best they can? What if all of our lives are more out of our control than we think?

Is the notion that we don't have as much free will as we would like to think just too hard to contemplate? Is it an illusion to think we really control our destiny?

P. S. My dad always attributed his thick head of hair (which stayed dark well into his seventies) from not letting the stream of water from the shower hit his head directly. Seriously. Instead, he always filtered it with his hands. (Maybe that's where I went wrong.) Or maybe it all had more to do with my dad's genes than any action he took to affect it.

How many of us think like that?

1 comment:

Ed Crotty said...

80% of your physical condition is due to nutrition - "you are what you eat" has always been true. Genetically, what you inherit, and what twins share in this case is Insulin Sensitivity or Insulin Resistance. To survive winter, our bodies and brains are pre-programmed to want more and more sugar and carbohydrates. Historically, It was a survival mechanism - as a caveman, if you didn't fatten up for winter, you wouldn't survive until spring.

Obesity has exploded since the 1980's when everyone was told to lower fats and eat more grain. This ignores the fact that when you want to fatten up livestock, your feed them - grain. eating grain make you fat. Period.

check out ( as well as Dr Davis' book ) and for the primal/paleo diet stuff.