what is obesity?

The Obesity Gene and Happiness Connection

My Bariatric Life Health Guide January 31, 2013
  • Fat and Jolly

    I can still recall my daughter, slack-jawed and sporting a soft haze in her eyes that can only be described as a glow, as she watched between the rails of the banister while Santa Claus stacked presents underneath the Christmas tree.

    Santa was ho-ho-ho-ing, his stomach literally shaking like a bowl full of jelly. Mr. Claus was in fact my father, dressed from head to toe in the traditional fire-red outfit. A white strap-on beard that would be replaced years later with his very own home-grown snowy whiskers covered his chin. When he had finished his Christmas chores, it was out the back door and off to Rudolph and company.

     

    Actually, it was off to the family dog who was laying lazily on the back stoop. Our four-legged family companion assessed my father and was weighing the possibilities: Christmas Eve curiosity or late night snack. Dad removed the beard, recognition was had, and the snack option quickly faded away.

    My father had been shaped to the role of Santa Claus for quite some time prior to his Christmas Eve debut. That is to say, he was then and still is now, a thick man. Round. Broad. Overweight. Take your pick but, whichever description you choose, he was a heck of a jolly old St. Nick.

    Jolly indeed. It is a stereotype that has been assigned to the plus-sized. Santa might be the jolly old elf but, if I had to define Dad using only a few words, jolly probably wouldn’t be among them. So then, is there any substance to this plump people are jolly contention?

     

    As a matter of fact, there is.

    The FTO Gene

    The FTO gene or “obesity gene” is recognized as the major genetic contributor to obesity. While obesity has long been linked to depression as well as mood and anxiety disorders, study results that have been recently published in Molecular Psychiatry shed a different light on these assumptions. 

    Researchers at McMaster University in Ontario, Canada, have discovered that the FTO gene not only contributes to obesity but also is associated with an 8% reduction in depression. While researchers admit that this reduction will not spark any major alterations in the day to day care of patients, it does challenge the contention that obesity and depression reinforce one another.

    The beginning hypothesis for the research was that obesity genes might be linked to depression, but investigation produced a meaningful result in the opposite direction.

    Many doctors believe that the two conditions of obesity and depression must be treated concurrently because they are interrelated. That could be a partial reason as to why the researchers were surprised by their findings. They checked three other international studies and found similar results. All showed the same 8% reduction. 

    While studies on twins and brothers and sisters have produced a 40% genetic component in depression, the attempts to associate genes with depression have been relatively unsuccessful.

    Living life well-fed,

    MBL

     

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    References:
    Huffington Post - http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2012/11/23/fat-happy-obesity-gene-depression_n_2166048.html
    Science Daily - http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2012/11/121120084725.htm
    The Atlantic - http://www.theatlantic.com/health/archive/2012/11/study-the-obesity-gene-protects-against-depression/265487/