Cranky Fitness is confused.
So there was a study that came out last week on the heritability of childhood obesity. The study looked at how much of childhood obesity is genetic, versus how much has to do with lifestyle stuff.
You know, like eating Pop Tarts and Dunkin' Doughnuts for breakfast instead of oatmeal and blueberries. Or playing video games and watching Survivor instead of going outside to play wholesome games like "Kick the Can" or "Capture the Flag" or "Jump Off the Roof with a Grocery Bag Parachute" or "Nearly Set the Neighbor's House on Fire Playing With Matches."
(Younger readers might not be aware that in the old days, we Baby Boomers were often permitted to play outside for hours and hours at a time, completely unsupervised. Isn't that neat? We tended to be slimmer, those of us who actually survived.)
Anyway, even though the study didn't get that specific, the general conclusion was: fat kids are mostly screwed because of their genes, not because of how their parents are raising them.
A few observations, then I'm eager to hear what you all think.
1. This was an extremely depressing study.
Not just because of the poor fat kids, but also because I could NOT make any sense out of it. I'm hoping an actual scientist might take a look, because it seemed to be saying a lot of contradictory things all at once. I can usually at least follow along a little bit when I read research studies, but this one made me feel dumb. I think it may have said that being a fat kid is about 77% genetic, but, well, don't quote me on that.
2. People Are Going to Believe What They Already Think is True.
Many who report on this study simply go with the headline and proclaim that "Nature Tops Nurture" when it comes to obesity, so Don't Blame the Parents. Others read the same study and come to the opposite conclusion.
At Mark's Daily Apple, for example, where the Impressively Healthy hang out, they noted that there is still a big environmental influence on how genes get switched on and off. If you drop down into the comments section, the general tenor is very academic, and the conclusion seems to be: screw the headlines, it's still mostly Nurture, not Nature.
3. I Think it's Both Nature and Nurture.
4. So Don't Leap to the Conclusion That Any Particular Fat Kid has Unusually Bad Health Habits.
If 77% of obesity is indeed genetic, there are some kids who are going to be fat doing the exact same stuff the skinny kids are doing. To stigmatize them and blame their parents without actually knowing anything about their particular diet or exercise habits is counter-productive and really mean.
Back when I was growing up, there were fewer obese kids--but those who were, in my experience, weren't doing anything all that different from the rest of us. To pretend we all have the same metabolisms and that all skinny people are virtuous and all fat people are lazy is just silly.
5. But As a Society, We Feed Kids Too Much Crap and Don't Ensure They Exercise Enough. That Needs to Stop.
Genes don't change over a couple of generations. The obesity epidemic is a real problem, and it wouldn't be here all of a sudden unless something major changed in the way we're eating and exercising.
So since we can't change individual genes (yet), we have to do all we can to make sure all kids are learning healthy habits. The ones who are genetically lucky enough to be a healthy weight despite eating crap and not exercising enough will still pay for it later in life. No one can afford to grow up thinking that unrestrained scarfing of junk food and a sedentary lifestyle are "normal," let alone some sort of entitlement.
End of Sermon.
So what do you folks think about the Nature vs. Nurture debate as far as childhood obesity?