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Good Nutrition Can Overcome Bad Genes

August 16, 2007 | 41,211 views
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Scientists in New Zealand are dispelling the common myth that obesity is caused by “bad genes.”

In what is referred to as a breakthrough discovery, scientists from Auckland University’s Liggins Institute have discovered that genetic pre-disposition to obesity can be reversed through good nutrition in early childhood.

Their research shows that when a mother is undernourished, her child’s body is pre-set to cope with a life of scarcity; therefore, the energy-dense, fast-food diet of the Western world results in children who are likely to become fat.

In laboratory tests, newborn offspring from both well-fed and undernourished rats were given leptin, a hormone that signals to the body when it has eaten enough. When they became adults, the long-term effects were measured by looking at genes that regulate metabolism in the liver. Rats from well-fed mothers reacted to leptin in the opposite way to those from undernourished mothers.

The researchers urge mothers to eat a more balanced diet (with the right amounts of protein and vitamins) during pregnancy. However, if the fetus is under-nourished in the womb, the long-term effects can still be corrected through good nutrition.

Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences July 23, 2007

The New Zealand Herald July 25, 2007

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Dr. Mercola's Comments:

Exactly why this is referred to as a “breakthrough discovery” is unclear to me, as we’ve been reporting on the links between leptin resistance and obesity for about five years.

Dr. Ron Rosdale is an expert on this topic and has written guest commentaries on this site several times. Some of them are included in the Related Articles section below.

I hope this research will become common knowledge soon. Nothing bothers me more than folks who refuse to believe they have the power to be healthy because of “bad genes.” It’s a cop-out. Good health eventually always comes back to the basics of good nutrition!

What’s Leptin Got to Do With It?

Many have trouble swallowing the concept that eating fat does not make you fat. Rather, it’s really your inability to burn and store fat properly that will make you pack on the pounds, and eventually lead to chronic diseases, including:

Hormones, especially leptin, regulate your body’s ability to burn fat. Leptin is released when sugar is metabolized in fat cells, and if you eat a diet that causes excessive surges in leptin, you will create disease. The standard American diet (SAD) is a perfect example of the type of diet that will cause you to become leptin-resistant, meaning your brain can no longer “hear” the signals telling it to stop eating and storing fat.

Leptin Resistance Creates a Vicious Cycle

Leptin is a hormone that communicates with your brain, letting it know how much energy your body has stored, and whether or not it’s full. Once full, one of leptin’s functions is to reduce your appetite and induce fat burning. Low leptin levels (leptin resistance) in the brain, however, will signal your body to keep eating and storing more fat.

As your appetite control centers in your hypothalamus become more and more resistant to hearing the messages from leptin, it believes you don’t have enough fat stores to live. Also lost is your ability to figure out where to store fat. Most of it ends up being stored in your abdomen, including your internal organs, such as your liver. This further disrupts your liver’s ability to hear other signals, such as those from insulin.

Your liver, therefore, begins to manufacture too much sugar from protein, contributing to the onset of diabetes, and a vicious cycle is set in full motion.

What’s the Solution?

If your mother ate lots of sugar and starches while pregnant, you may have been pre-disposed to leptin resistance -- essentially, your body is set up to cope with a life of scarcity. An elevated leptin level in a fasting blood sample is an indication of leptin resistance. Fortunately, this is a completely reversible situation.

Eating a balanced diet, custom made for your specific metabolism, can reverse leptin resistance or ensure you never get to that stage in the first place. My new book, Take Control of Your Health, will give you the tools you need to create and maintain a high level of health, regardless of what your genes may be telling you.

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