Here’s the good news: being fat isn’t only about greed, diet and exercise. Here’s the bad news: being fat isn’t only about greed, diet and exercise.
Fat, fate and disease is the ‘popular’ summary-so-far of research being conducted in Southampton and New Zealand, and linked to projects from all points in between. The authors are studying epigenetics – specifically, the way environmental cues switch on and off the genes for subtle metabolic pathways during fœtal development, leading to later life obesity and a propensity to Type II diabetes and cardiovascular risk.
One would expect that obese mothers produce babies who tend to become fat children and adults; it is more surprising that undernourished mothers also produce babies who tend to become fat children and adults. Add the interesting facts that first-born children often have a metabolic tendency towards fatness, whatever their mother’s nutritional status and no matter what later siblings are like, and that the average number of children per UK family is now 1.7, and you have some sinister statistics. Now think of China.
According to Gluckman and Hanson, only improvements in women’s nutrition before they ever become pregnant can make a difference, which will in some cultures require a social revolution. Meantime, the obesity epidemic is becoming a global pandemic. And diet and exercise are not going to fix it.