A study of 226 families by Plymouth’s Peninsula Medical School found obese mothers were 10 times more likely to have obese daughters.
For fathers and sons, there was a six-fold rise. But in both cases children of the opposite sex were not affected.
The researchers believe the link is behavioural rather than genetic.
Now look, I’m willing to acknowledge that I know next to nothing about genetics. So it’s not like I’m saying I know they are wrong because I have any actual knowledge. But when I see the words “researchers” or “scientists” and then see the word “believe” I become concerned.
Looking more closely at the actual release from the researchers we see the following:
The Study’s Director, Professor Terry Wilkin said:
“Any genetic link between obese parents and their children would be indiscriminate of gender. The clearly defined gender-assortative pattern which our research has uncovered is an exciting one because it points towards behavioural factors at work in childhood obesity.
“These findings could turn our thinking on childhood obesity dramatically on its head. Money and resources have focussed on children over the past decade in the belief that obese children become obese adults, and that prevention of obesity in children will solve the problem in adulthood. EarlyBird’s evidence supports the opposite hypothesis – that children are becoming obese due to the influence of their same-sex parents, and that we will need to focus on changing the behaviour of the adult if we want to combat obesity in the child.”
So, even here they have no real evidence for this claim beyond what their expectations would be. They would expect obesity to be independant of gender, but it isn’t, therefore it is behavioral? They seem to be missing a few steps there.
Here are at least four other ideas for further research here that don’t immediately jump to ye olde “fatties eat too much” theory. I thought of them all by myself in approximately 5 minutes. Now, perhaps they have already thought of and refuted all of these theories but it seems to me that if you did all that work you might have possibly mentioned it in your “Oh noes teh fatz0rz” rant.
1. Hormones. This is such a duh explaination it kindof hurts. If I have anything in common with my mom it is most definietly related to my “womanly cycles.”
2. they are only looking at childhood obesity here, and comparing it to the current weight levels of adutls. What if their thin parents were also obese in childhood? (And what if people who were obese when they were younger are more likely to be married to someone who is actually obese than people who have been thin their whole lives?)
3. Additionally, dieting. My mother, who is obese, encouraged me to diet from age 6.
4. What about previous generations patterns of obesity? Also, are they only looking at couples where both members are obese? Or just one?
Edited to Add: 5. It could be a sex linked gene (per everyone in the comments). I stupidly assumed that if something like that were an option the genetics scientist would have mentioned it. (I haven’t taken biology in over 10 years, so my genetics knowledge is pretty non-existent, thank you smart people for coming to my aid!)
I would really like to have a better understanding of their methodology here, but nothing pops up that I can use on google, which furthers my annoyance greatly. I can’t tell if they were looking at only couples where both parents were obese, as they don’t mention that possiblity at all in the releases.
If anyone has any more information about this research, that’d be great.
Also, I’d be interested to hear how they refute this other study which is more robust. It’s conclusions are clearly in opposition to their “beliefs” about what their research proves:
Stunkard ended up with 540 adults whose average age was 40. They had been adopted when they were very young – 55 percent had been adopted in the first month of life and 90 percent were adopted in the first year of life. His conclusions, published in The New England Journal of Medicine in 1986, were unequivocal. The adoptees were as fat as their biological parents, and how fat they were had no relation to how fat their adoptive parents were.
The scientists summarized it in their paper: “The two major findings of this study were that there was a clear relation between the body-mass index of biologic parents and the weight class of adoptees, suggesting that genetic influences are important determinants of body fatness; and that there was no relation between the body-mass index of adoptive parents and the weight class of adoptees, suggesting that childhood family environment alone has little or no effect.”