How to beat the fat gene and combat the worldwide obesity epidemic

Friday, May 12, 2017. Author Martin Cheifetz

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The temperature is 220 degrees the clothing is swimwear, the rule is brutal honesty.  The goal is a better life and your hosts are pro volleyball player, sports announcer, fashion model, and actress Gabrielle Reece and Rolling Stone contributor and NY Times best-selling author Neil Strauss.  

The Truth Barrel podcast is an offshoot of Strauss and Reece’s celebrity pool-fitness workouts that end with time in a barrel sauna and an ice plunge.  Today, they sweat the truth out of Dr Dan Reardon, the CEO of FitnessGenes.

Below are some highlights from the podcast that pertain to obesity, from both the genetic and environmental (lifestyle) perspectives.  We hope you enjoy it.

Truth Barrel:  Tell us about the research paper that FitnessGenes released on the FTO gene--the gene associated with obesity.

Dr Dan:  It's an interesting study that we've done in conjunction with Loughborough University in the UK, where we looked at 538 people within our population of users.  Our user base is theoretically people who are fitness orientated and we wanted to look at the frequency of the FTO gene to see if it was the same as the general population.  We then did various body composition measurements, eating questionnaires, and behavioral studies around eating and the really interesting thing that we found was that people carrying the risk allele for obesity, were NOT overweight.  So that's the first really important thing to understand.  

Secondly, where it gets really interesting is that those people who had at least one copy of the “at risk for obesity” variation generally exercised much more and much harder than the other people and thirdly, people that were carrying two copies of the gene variation had to practice a lot more cognitive restraint with foods, so without even knowing it, they understood they needed to modify their behavior.  

What's one of the things you hear in the media about diet, "an occasional indulgence isn't going to do you any harm", so if you give someone with no cognitive restraint food that they are not going to be able to control eating, that's surely the worst thing you can do.  

Genetically, there will be categories of society where you shouldn't be tempting them with food, you should be helping them to understand quite early in life that these are the foods to avoid and here's the reasons why, and helping them understand the food choices they should be making and the reasons why, and most importantly, making sure they don't get caught up in media driven diets.

TB:  So let's say you're the head of the worldwide obesity congress and you have all of the industry and government leaders in front of you, what are your 5 recommendations to reverse the obesity trend?

Dr Dan:  Great question!

1.   80% of the financial resources should go into children and over the course of 50-80 years, you'll get the greatest return on your investment.

2.  People in their 20's and 30's need to understand that becoming overweight and all of the lifestyle diseases that result from it: diabetes high blood pressure, etc...I'd like them to understand that those diseases are not a natural course of living.  That's not normal, but huge swathes of the population think that it is.  When I was a doctor, that was one of my biggest challenges, was trying to explain that this is not a normal path of life.

3.  I'd like to stop seeing the media stop vilifying foods and food brands, because all they do is make those foods and those brands front of mind. So if you tell everyone that McDonald’s is bad, it doesn't dissuade people from eating there, it just gives them free media coverage.  I'd like the vilification to end for the media to focus on what is positive within food and the food industry, and restaurants and diets.  Don't focus on what people should not be doing, focus on what they should be doing.

4.  The heart of good nutrition is the farmers, as they are ultimately responsible for the population eating well and having access to better nutrient quality foods.  So what are the things that we can do to over support farmers and over deliver to farmers so that the better quality foods are not as expensive? Rather than focusing on banning junk foods, how can we over support farmers and get the prices of quality foods down, as this will give us a greater ROI over 50-80 years than virtually anything else that we are doing.

5.  In terms of a more immediate impact, one of the things you could do is regulate fitness and nutrition information through social media so that when people say, "I got my abs by doing this or I got my butt by doing that", they need to have that info verified before it can be posted.

Another aspect of obesity is the quality of the food.  It's not only the over-consumption of calories, it's the inferior quality of the food combined with reduced activity levels.

Read about our science and read our blogs and read our studies to learn more about the information we can deliver, but ultimately the only way you are truly going to know is to do the test and follow the recommendations. You'll learn how to make minimal changes that have maximal effect.  

Finally, keep it realistic.  Don't write down 10 things that you need to change about your diet or exercise. Write down 5 and then pick 1 or 2 that you can actually do and stick with them.

If you enjoyed these excerpts, please listen to the complete podcast


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