Genetics and Family Environment Often Create Chain of Obesity in Families

DAYTON, Ohio (November 9, 2017) – The factors that cause obesity to run in families are so powerful that statistics show 80 percent of those born to obese parents will struggle with obesity themselves.

“A person’s genetics and their family environment play a big role in whether they become obese,” said Chandan Gupta, MD, a family physician with Monroe Medical Center. “We know genetics plays a role, but research has yet to discover which gene is at the root of the issue.”

A person is obese when their weight is above the normal range. Weight is monitored by way of body mass index (BMI). A normal BMI is considered between 18 and 25. A BMI between 25 and 29 is overweight, whereas a BMI over 30 is obese.

Science has yet to figure out exactly what causes a person to be predisposed to obesity, but experience has shown that a person’s family dynamics may play a bigger role than their genes.

“Family environment includes what we eat, how we eat, our attitude toward food and our activity level,” said Dr. Gupta, who practices with Premier Physician Network. “Family stress is also another factor that can impact a person’s weight.”

A person learns behaviors and adopts lifestyles that are engrained in them as they grow up. Their ability or desire to shift these habits can be a challenge, especially for those who fear it might create a distance between them and the ones they love, Dr. Gupta said.

“It can be difficult, but it’s so important for people born with a genetic makeup prone to obesity to incorporate as many healthy changes into their life as possible,” she said. “It’s something that will not only make an impact on your own life, but also for generations to come.”

Dr. Gupta says the following steps can be a starting point for families prone to obesity.

A celebration’s centerpiece – Take a few moments to consider how big of a role food and eating play in family celebrations. Consider ways to lessen food’s role and think of creative ways to incorporate activity. Perhaps birthday parties traditionally held inside a home with a table of food can be shifted to a park where kids can run and adults can walk.

Protect family dinners – Families who sit down for a family meal together tend to be less obese than those who constantly eat on the run. Plan family dinners with recipes that include lean meats and vegetables. Make small, yet smart choices, such as swapping out soda for water.

“Research has found that planned meals have a higher amount of vitamins, minerals, calcium, iron and folic acid levels than those that aren’t,” Dr. Gupta said.

Limit recreational screen time – Our current lifestyle demands the use of screen time between work and social connectivity. However, families can create a big impact by watching how often they allow themselves to use digital devices. Dr. Gupta said those who limit screen time to 10 to 15 hours a week tend to lead healthier lifestyles. Consider the use of docking stations for devices with set hours they are required to be placed there.

Don’t discount stress – Stress can play a big role in a person’s eating habits. Unfortunately, families themselves can be a source of stressful relationships and situations. Be mindful of the role stress can play in overeating and mindless eating. Set up boundaries when eating such as being mindful of each bite or prohibiting yourself from eating straight from a bag or container.

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