No single technique will beat obesity


No single aspect of diet or lifestyle can be targeted to eliminate obesity, according to new research.

The University of Exeter Medical School study found that a number of interlinking aspects, from the environment to lifestyle and personal behaviour, have a telling impact an individual's genes and waistline.

They did discover that the strongest influence on obesity levels is poverty.

No ‘silver bullet’

The findings contradict studies claiming that targeting fizzy drinks or fried food could be the answer to the obesity crisis.

Dr Jessica Tyrrell, who led the research, says there’s no 'silver bullet' that can combat obesity for those genetically predisposed to it.

Instead, public health measures should target all aspects of these fattening factors in small ways, she added.

The study, published in the International Journal of Epidemiology, looked at 120,000 individuals from the UK Biobank, a collection of samples from hundreds of thousands of people.

Wealth and genetics

Previous studies have shown that in high income countries, people from more deprived social backgrounds are more likely to be obese.

But this new study provides evidence that people operating in less favourable socio-economic circumstances, and who are also at high genetic risk, were more overweight than would be expected through a combination of the two risk factors.

Within the poorest half of the population, carrying 10 additional genetic risk factors for obesity was associated with around 3.8kg extra weight in someone 1.73m tall.

The same person in the richest half of the population would carry only 2.9kg in extra weight.

Professor Tim Frayling, who oversaw the study, says we need better understanding of the complex mix of genetics, environment and lifestyle to create evidence-based policy decisions in obesity.

Despite this breakthrough, Prof Frayling says it’s still a challenge to nail down the exact aspects of environment and lifestyle which are most critical.


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