Obesity: Disease or Choice?


Photo by Citlali Arzate

If we can control what we eat does that mean that we can control our weight?

It is estimated that every one of us is born with at least five to ten potentially deadly gene mutations. Not every gene mutation is deadly, but many of them are the root cause that leads to diseases such as diabetes, sickle cell anemia, Huntington’s disease, and obesity.  Obesity is a major problem that affects about 78 million adults and more than 12.5 million children in the U.S. Obesity is defined as having too much excess body fat not being overweight.  There are an abundance of people who cannot lose weight even if they tried and they eat not because they are hungry but because their mind thinks the body is starving. People can control many things in life such as what to eat, when to exercise and how to live. But we cannot control genetics.  Obesity is a disease; it is a disorder of the body caused by a genetic mutation that humans have no control over and it deserves medical recognition.

Diabetes is a disease. No question about that. However, this disease is caused by a genetic mutation in which the body does not make insulin or can not use the insulin it makes as well as it should. Obesity is also caused by a genetic mutation and shares similar disease traits as diabetes, but it does not get as much medical attention as diabetes.  People do not realize that with proper medical attention obesity could be treated and the number of people who suffer from this disease could be reduced.

Leptin resistance is one genetic mutation of leptin that contributes to Obesity. It is when the hormone leptin is unable to produce its normal effects, such as regulation of energy intake by the body, appetite, food intake, fat storage, and metabolism. Not everyone is born with leptin resistance but they can get it if they have high levels of insulin that makes the body produce more leptin. Because Leptin resistance cannot regulate fat storage it is sensed as starvation and therefore multiple mechanisms are activated to increase fat stores rather than to burn them. This is what causes the extra body fat. A person may eat a healthy diet, but if he or she has the genetic mutation of leptin in their genes then their bodies will go into starvation mode and produce extra fat that is not needed.

Another genetic mutation involved with obesity is KRS2. It is a mutation from the normal gene KSR2 (Kinase Suppressor of Ras2). This gene is known as the obesity gene because it not only controls appetite but also the way calories are burned in the body. KSR2 is in charge of making sure that cells grow, divide and use energy properly. However, mutations in this gene cause signals in cells to go awry and damage their ability to process glucose and fatty acids. Since the mutation KRS2 cannot process glucose it leads to high levels of leptin which can also cause leptin resistance or make it worse.  Burning calories and controlling metabolism is another job that KSR2 is responsible for. If one has the mutation of KRS2, then that person will not be able to burn enough calories they need and that can turn into excess fat.  The person will also have very low metabolism. An example of the effect of KRS2 is two people running at the same speed, but the one with the mutation will not burn half as many calories as the other person who does not have the genetic disease.

All in all, genes play a huge role in our health; they control our looks, our energy stored our metabolism, and our appetite. Some can even overtake our bodies. Diseases such as cancer are heard of but there are an abundance of other disease in the world, some of which are genetic diseases. We never consider genetic mutations as a disease because they do not seem or sound harmful at all. However, not every genetic mutation is harmless and has no effect on a person’s health; an abundance of them are the root cause for many diseases we hear about today.  These genetic mutations such as leptin resistance and KRS2 overtake signals sent from proteins and hormones to the brain and cause them to go awry. Because of all these genetic disorders that humans have and cannot control, Obesity is a disease. By recognizing obesity as a disease, physicians can focus their attention on the real causes of this problem and create a treatment that can resolve it.


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