Tag Archives: obesity

abundant food obesity dna

Gorging Gene: How Our “Hunter Gatherer” DNA Is Making Us Fat Now

How is our pre-historic DNA making us obese? For most of human history, we lived as foragers. This means that for tens of thousands of years we travelled in search of food instead of settling in one place.

Our ancestors’ nomadic lifestyle was dictated largely by the seasonal migration of animals and the growth cycles of plants. (and they were generally in great shape!)

Then, sometime around 10,000 years ago, we collectively decided to settle down. We stopped chasing our food and decided to domesticate animals and plant crops instead.

This relatively swift transition of our species from “hunter gatherers” to farmers and herders is known as the “Agricultural Revolution.” 

History and science books applaud this evolution of our species as “progress,” but in some ways we’re still struggling to make the transition.

Although it’s been a long time since we stalked migrating bison, or dug for edible roots in the woods, our DNA still hasn’t forgotten when food was scarce. Enter the, “gorging gene theory.”

hunter gatherer diet wall

“You guys up for Happy hour at The Cheescake Factory?”

The Curse of Abundant Food

Our lifestyle has changed dramatically over the millennia, but our DNA has been struggling to catch up.

In fact, many of us are consuming nearly double the recommended amount of calories each day.

As food becomes more abundant, more accessible, (and lower quality!) we find ourselves plagued by a worsening obesity epidemic, which is now even spreading to poorer, developing nations.

Obesity costs us hundreds of billions of dollars each year, and puts crushing weight on our already groaning health care system.

Even historically poor rural China is now grappling with an obesity explosion, as 17% of boys under age 19 are obese. (Up from only 1% on 1985)

We don’t want to be fat, so why to we have such a problem eating in moderation? 

Part of the answer to this question may be found in our DNA, and the eating habits we formed during the tens of thousands of years when we were foragers.

The “Gorging Gene” Theory

During most of human history, food was generally in short supply. We didn’t have the means to preserve or store much of it, so we were always on the move to find our next meal.

Imagine the excitement of our “hunter gatherer” ancestors when presented with a greasy slab of freshly cooked bison meat, or upon discovering a tree full of ripe fruit.

Such a bounty of food was rare, and our survival instincts told us to gorge while we could. After all, there was no telling when we’d be presented with such a feast again, and we’d be wise to store extra calories, especially because our ancestors lived such active lifestyles.

Over thousands of years, these eating patterns became imprinted in our DNA. They seem to be contributing to our weight problems today, as (low-quality) food is cheap and abundant in most places.

obesity dna

Our DNA Still Thinks That Food Is Scarce

If you think of human history as a 24-hour day, it’s really only been in the last few “minutes” that food has been so easily accessible and abundant.

You might say that opening an over-stuffed refrigerator today is like our foraging ancestors discovering a bush full of ripe berries in the woods.

Even in a time of abundance, our survival instincts still tell us that food is scarce, and implore us to feast while we can.

The gorging gene is still in our DNA, telling us that food is scarce. (and we listen) 

You could say that by trying to eat in moderation (in a time of abundance) we are literally fighting tens of thousands of years of evolution!

  • Idea: Don’t drive. Take a long walk or bike to a restaurant or supermarket instead. The extra effort will awaken out your “inner-forager,” and the food will definitely taste better! 

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9 Health Consequences of Obesity: You Might Choke on This Food for Thought

obesity disease risks

obese people diabetesObesity is no joke – Looking for motivation to get started on that diet? Thanks to healtheo360 for putting together this graphic which communicates just how deadly obesity really is. You can only imagine the economic cost of obesity based on these startling statistics.

People who are obese are:

  • 25% more likely to be suffer from depression
  • 200% more likely to get multiple sclerosis
  • 200% more likely to have ADHD as a child
  • 33% more likely to develop asthma
  • 104% more likely to have heart failure

and, also consider that:

  • 30% of people suffering from dementia are obese
  • Over 50% of people with diabetes are obese
  • Approximately 10% of cancer is caused by obesity
  • Over 35% of Americans are obese!

If you need further incentive to start a diet or lose weight, check out our coupons for Medifast and Weight Watchers Online


What Does Obesity Really Cost in America? It’s Over $500 Billion Per Year

economic cost of obesity america

obese manAbout two thirds of Americans are overweight, and about half of those are considered to be obese. (a body mass index of 30 or more) There have been a number of studies that attempt to show how obesity is taking a bite out of the U.S. economy, but it’s a hard number to really quantify.

Unlike more straight-forward costs, like what might be spent on medicines to treat a specific disease, the actual cost of obesity in America has far-reaching implications that we might not think of right away. So, having said that, let’s try to wrap our heads around some of these expenses.

  • Obesity adds $190 billion in medical costs and healthcare resulting from obesity-related problems like heart disease, asthma, and Type 2 diabetes. That’s over 20% of the total annual health care costs in America, eclipsing even smoking-related costs.
  • Obesity costs Medicare and Medicaid an estimated $62 billion dollars each year
  • Consider that the average uninsured obese person costs a lot more to the American taxpayer. They cost the health care system about $3270 per year, compared to about $512 per year for the non-obese
  • Obesity costs American companies over $170 billion each year in lost productivity, and sick days (absenteeism) taken due to obesity. A study by the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation showed that this cost of lost productivity could spiral to $580 billion per year by 2030
  • Obese employees are about 25% more likely to go on disability, which directly raises insurance costs. A recent study by the Shell oil company showed that obese employees were twice as likely to use paid days off than employees who were not.
  • Obesity costs us $4.5 billion at the gas pump! Think about this, if the average American weighed what they did in 1960, there would be a lot less weight to carry around in cars and airplanes. Each year we burn an extra 1.3 billion gallons of gas to transport overweight passengers
  • Childhood obesity costs Americans about $14.3 billion dollars a year. Also consider that these children will likely be obese as adults as well
obesity healthcare cost

Obesity health-care costs – WSJ

These are just some of the obvious costs of obesity in America. It’s easy to imagine an almost endless number of less obvious costs as well. Obese people are more likely to suffer from depression, cancer, and childhood ADHD just to name a few. Many hospitals and businesses have undertaken significant expenses to accommodate the obese, such as replacing wall-mounted toilets, and widening hallways. The resulting increased cost of employee-sponsored health insurance lowers profits and weighs on employees salaries.

So how much does obesity cost our economy? Although there are numbers out there starting at $500 billion per year, how could you possibly calculate the total cost of this far-reaching epidemic? How can you quantify the cost of the 300,000 annual obesity-related deaths, and the ripple effect that this has on America?

The projections of the worsening obesity epidemic are truly frightening, and pose a profound risk to our economy.

Is there a solution? Well, there are a number of heated debates going on nationwide on how to address this issue, and it only complicates the matter that a number of large corporations fear that there own growth will suffer if Americans lose weight. You can imagine the implications to shareholders of Coca Cola or McDonalds if proposals like a soda tax were successful. That’s why soft drink makers, fast food chains, and supermarkets are spending millions of dollars to lobby congress to make sure Americans stay fat and (sick?) happy. Pharmaceutical companies have certainly fattened their profits on the back of this epidemic, and meaningful legislation that addresses obesity seems nearly impossible. Ugh!

obesity by state

Estimated cost of obesity by state

Gandhi once said, “You must be the change you wish to see in the world.” Although the implications our our obesity epidemic are staggering, we can all certainly start addressing this on a personal level. If you need help, consider support from weight loss plans like Weight Watchers and Medifast.

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