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The Obesity Code

Unlocking the Secrets of Weight Loss

By Jason Fung
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  • Contains 9 key ideas
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The Obesity Code by Jason Fung

The Obesity Code (2016) addresses the alarming global rise of obesity and asks what we can do to minimize the risks to our health. The best place to start, Jason Fung argues, is to clear up common misconceptions about the causes of obesity, beginning with the old saw that all dietary fats are to blame. That means taking a closer look at the latest evidence and addressing the true culprit: insulin resistance.

Key idea 1 of 9

Genetic factors play a larger role in obesity than social environment.

Like lots of other social problems, obesity is often framed as a nature versus nurture issue. So what’s the cause of obesity – does it come down to people’s metabolisms or their lifestyle? Well, the answer might just surprise you: the latest research suggests that social environment isn’t the primary cause of obesity.

We know that from scientific studies of environmental factors affecting children as they develop. The best way of determining how important these are is to look at adopted kids and their families. That’s just what Albert J. Stunkard did. His research on adopted children in Denmark was published in the New England Journal of Medicine in 1986. Why Denmark? Well, the country is pretty great at keeping accurate adoption records, which is just what Stunkard needed to compare his subject’s adoptive and biological parents.

Stunkard showed that there was no correlation whatsoever between the weight of these minors and their adoptive parents. This indicated that environmental factors had virtually no bearing on whether children became obese or not. The results of the study came as a shock. Until that point, the default assumption had been that social environment was the most important factor when it came to obesity. The argument that early exposure to junk food led to weight issues had been refuted.

That left genetic factors. Stunkard didn’t just dismiss an old theory, however. He also provided evidence for a new hypothesis. When he compared adopted kids to their biological parents, he found a strong correlation: the children of obese parents were much more likely to become obese themselves even if they’d grown up in a family in which everyone else was relatively thin. In 1991, Stunkard published a follow-up study which put a number to his claims. According to his new research, genetic factors account for approximately 70 percent of a person’s likelihood to develop obesity.

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