“For generations, my family has been overweight or obese and I’m just wondering how much of weight gain is dictated by genes?” writes this week’s house call. “Do my genes create my destiny?”
Let’s get the bad news out of the way first. Some genes can predispose you to obesity, type 2 diabetes or heart disease. But predisposition is not pre-destiny. Ninety percent of our current health is controlled by the environment in which we bathe our genes—the food we eat, our exercise regimen, our resilience in the face of stress and our exposure to environmental toxins.
In other words, a familial history of obesity or chronic disease does not render you powerless. You don’t have to sit back and accept that you’re doomed to become fat and sick.
In a comprehensive study on genes and obesity, researchers identified 32 different genes that can contribute to obesity. Even in the unlikely case you actually had all 32 genes, they would only account for 22 pounds of extra weight.
Some people (in fact most people—about 70 percent or so) are more likely to be carbohydrate intolerant and insulin resistant setting the stage for overweight or obesity. And some ethnic groups are at much higher risk—including those of Asian, East Indian, Native American, Pacific Islander or Middle Eastern descent. And of course, if you have a family history of type 2 diabetes, you are predisposed to become diabetic.
For these folks, a little bit of sugar or starch makes their bodies create much more insulin than the average person. This vicious cycle triggers weight gain, hunger and fatigue, as well as high blood pressure, obesity and type 2 diabetes.
Yet even with all these factors, you’re not doomed. We don’t have to accept that familial disposition to certain conditions means developing them is inevitable. By eating well and exercising, you can completely prevent obesity or type 2 diabetes, what I collectively call diabesity.
Genetics Loads the Gun, but Environment Pulls the Trigger
While genetics certainly impacts weight gain, environment plays a far bigger role, as the Pima Indians of Arizona show.
The Pima Indians had a metabolism exquisitely adapted to their environment. They had evolved to thrive perfectly on particular foods that exist only in a desert environment. One hundred years ago they were thin and fit with none of the diseases of Western civilization, such as obesity, heart disease and diabetes.
Yet in a single generation, they became one of the most obese populations in the world, second only to the Samoans. Eighty percent of them develop type 2 diabetes by the time they reach 30 and their life expectancy is only 46 years.
Did they suddenly mutate and get the obesity gene? No. The answer is much more complicated than that. Traditionally the Pima diet consisted of whole grains, squash, melons, legumes, beans and chilies supplemented by gathered foods including mesquite, acorns, cacti, chia, herbs and fish. Their diet included whole, unrefined and unprocessed foods, which (technically) is a high-carbohydrate diet, albeit a healthy one. Remember, all veggies are carbs—just the health, unrefined kind.
The Pima Indians were a fit and healthy people until their diet changed. Over the course of one generation, they went from eating this traditional diet to eating the traditional American diet featuring high-sugar, high-flour, high-processed food, which is a very different kind of high-carbohydrate diet.
At the same time, their cousins in Mexico are thin and healthy because they’ve maintained their traditional diet and lifestyle.
The Genetic Connection to Weight Gain
As the Pima Indians show, environment definitely plays a role in fat loss, but so do genes, to some degree. The Pima Indians have what we call the thrifty gene hypothesis: Some people are well designed to store excess food when it is available, setting the stage for diabesity.
Other genes also contribute, such as brain genes, which code for receptors for the pleasure-producing neurotransmitter dopamine. In some cases, these genes make dopamine receptors that are not as responsive to dopamine’s pleasure signals and that makes us eat more and more in order to be satisfied.
When I mention drugs, you probably think cocaine or heroin. Indeed, they trigger dopamine receptors. Yet refined carbohydrates and sugar, the most abundant abused drug, also trigger these dopamine receptors. When your dopamine receptors need more stimulation to feel pleasure, they set the stage for cravings and addiction.
We are very aware that sugar acts just like cocaine and drives food addiction, as well as overeating. I described the science of this in great detail in The Blood Sugar Solution 10-Day Detox Diet and provided a clear plan to break the sugar and refined carbohydrate addiction.
Researchers concluded extreme stimulation of the brain’s pleasure receptors by sugar-rich diets generates an extreme reward signal in the brain, overriding the self-control mechanisms and leading to addiction.
Other genetic factors also play a role here. New and emerging research shows how different people have varying responses to carbohydrates and fats. Some of us do better with more omega 3 fat, while others thrive on saturated fat. Some people do better with more omega 6 fats. There can be a big difference in how we respond to different types of fat. Those effects impact blood sugar, cholesterol and even gut bacteria.
Biochemical Individuality Underlies Everything
Rather than obsessively worry about genetics, your body becomes the best way to gauge how you should eat. How do you feel after eating certain foods? Are you feeling alert and vibrant with abundant energy, or are you feeling sluggish, bloated and foggy?
Most people do much better with a higher-fat, lower-carbohydrate diet. Research supports this. A one-year, multi-center controlled trial, published in The New England Journal of Medicine, looked at 63 obese men and women randomly assigned to either a low-carbohydrate, high-protein, high-fat diet or a low-calorie, high-carbohydrate, low-fat conventional diet. The low-carbohydrate diet participants lost more weight and had lower levels of triglycerides, cholesterol, blood pressure and blood sugar levels.
Yet this wasn’t the case for everyone. We are all unique individuals with different biochemical needs. We all do better with fewer refined carbohydrates which break down into sugar. More sugar means more insulin, which means more inflammation. That’s never a good situation.
Some people do better with more carbohydrates or less fat. Again, your body will let you know—just focus on how you feel and what works best for you.
A scale and your lab tests can also help you determine what works best. Let’s say you have developed type 2 diabetes, which you desperately want to reverse. You may need a high (up to 60 to 70 percent) amount of healthy fats and a low (five to 10 percent) amount of carbohydrates. This may seem extreme. But it sometimes takes extreme change to get extreme results, especially when you’re trying to reverse disease.
Interestingly, once you heal your body and reverse diabesity, you may be able to handle more varieties of foods as your body becomes more resilient.
My point is that works for others might not work for you. Everyone is different and has different biochemical needs. And yes, some people have genes predetermined for obesity, type 2 diabetes and other complications. Even so, you’re not doomed.
7 Ways to Simplify Weight Loss
While your genes play some role, they do not determine your destiny. Regardless of your genetics and other conditions, everyone can start with these seven strategies for weight loss and optimal health:
1. Focus on eating real, whole foods. Eat plenty of non-starchy vegetables, some lower-sugar fruits if you can tolerate them, grass-fed meats, pastured chicken and eggs and wild-caught fish.
2. Eat plenty of healthy fats like avocados, coconut oil, nuts and seeds, extra-virgin olive oil and some grass-fed butter. Eating healthy fats helps burn fat by speeding up your metabolism. Your cells and brain also require fat to function at optimally.
3. Avoid processed sugars and refined carbohydrates. Limit your grain intake from breads, cereals, pastas, rice and starches. Avoid baked goods and sweets and watch your intake of alcohol.
4. Take optimal nutrients. A good multivitamin and multimineral covers the nutrients that you’re probably not getting from food. I also recommend a professional-quality fish oil, extra vitamin D and magnesium, a probiotic and a fiber supplement to help balance blood sugar levels. You can find all these and other quality supplements in my store.
5. Control stress levels. Being constantly stressed out wreaks havoc on your health, hormones and weight. Find something that helps you tamp down stress, whether it’s yoga, meditation or deep breathing. Many patients find my UltraCalm CD helps dial down stress levels.
6. Get adequate sleep. Sleep deprivation makes you fat and can also contribute to depression, pain and inflammation, heart disease, diabetes and many other health issues. Getting at least seven to eight hours of sleep is vital to optimal health. Avoid exposure to artificial light from smart phones, television and other electronics too close to bedtime. Read 19 of my top sleep tips here.
7. Exercise regularly. Get on a regular routine of exercise and move your body. You can’t exercise your way out of a bad diet, but exercise does make your cells and muscles more sensitive to insulin so you don’t need as much. Less insulin means less inflammation and less body fat, especially dangerous belly fat. If all you are able to do is walk that is fine. You’ll want to do a minimum of 30 minutes of walking daily. Others may be able to handle more advanced exercise. Studies demonstrate the benefits of high intensity interval training (HIIT), which you can do in as little as 20 minutes. It’s much more effective than longer durations of low-intensity cardio workouts.
In a nutshell: Stop worrying about your genes! You can do plenty to ensure you are on the right path to achieving healthy weight and optimal health. Your lifestyle and food choices are much better indicators of your health and weight than your genes.
You can create optimal weight and metabolism and reverse most chronic disease. Some of us have to work a bit harder and for some it is much easier, but it’s very possible for almost everyone. Never, ever lose hope.
To learn more about the healthy fats I mentioned here and how they can help you become lean and healthy, look for my new book Eat Fat, Get Thin.
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By Stuart Braun
"These are not just wildfires, they are climate fires," Jay Inslee, Governor of Washington State, said as he stood amid the charred remains of the town of Malden west of Seattle earlier this month. "This is not an act of God," he added. "This has happened because we have changed the climate of the state of Washington in dramatic ways."
'These Aren't Wildfires'<p>Sam Ricketts, who led climate policy and strategy for Governor Jay Inslee's 2020 presidential campaign, tweeted on September 11 that "These aren't wildfires. These are #climatefires, driven by fossil fuel pollution."</p><p>"The rate and the strength and the devastation wrought by these disasters are fueled by climate change," Ricketts told DW of fires that have burnt well over 5 million acres across California, Oregon, Washington State, and into neighboring Idaho. </p><p>In a two-day period in early September, Ricketts notes that more of Washington State burned than in almost any entire fire season until now, apart from 2015. </p><p>California, meanwhile, was a tinderbox after its hottest summer on record, with temperatures in Death Valley reaching nearly 130 degrees Fahrenheit, according to the U.S. National Weather Service. It has been reported as the hottest temperature ever measured on Earth.</p>
<div id="29ad9" class="rm-shortcode" data-rm-shortcode-id="8346fe7350e1371d400097cd48bf45a2"><blockquote class="twitter-tweet twitter-custom-tweet" data-twitter-tweet-id="1306969603180879872" data-partner="rebelmouse"><div style="margin:1em 0">Drought-parched wetlands in South America have been burning for weeks. https://t.co/pjAKdFcKPg #Pantanal https://t.co/ImN2C5vwcp</div> — NASA Earth (@NASA Earth)<a href="https://twitter.com/NASAEarth/statuses/1306969603180879872">1600440810.0</a></blockquote></div><p>As evidenced by Australia's apocalyptic Black Summer of 2019-2020, fires are burning bigger and for longer, with new records set year-on-year. Right now, Brazil's vast and highly biodiverse Pantanal wetlands are suffering from catastrophic fires.</p>
#climatefires Started in Australia<p>Governor Inslee this month invoked the phrase climate fires for arguably the first time in the U.S., according to Ricketts.</p><p>But the term was also used as fires burnt out of control in Australia in late 2019. In the face of a 2000km (more than 1,200 miles) fire front, and government officials and media who <a href="https://www.dw.com/en/trump-climate-change-denial-emissions-environment-germany-fake-heartland-seibt/a-52688933" target="_blank">played down the link to climate change</a>, Greens Party Senator Sarah Hanson-Young and a friend decided that reference to bushfires was inadequate. </p><p>"We both just said, we've got to start calling them climate fires, that's what they are," the Australian Senator told DW.</p><p>Hanson-Young says scientists have been warning for decades that these would be the effects of global heating. "We've been told these kinds of extreme weather events and destruction is what climate change would look like, and it's right here on our doorstep," she said from her home state of South Australia — where by early September fire warnings had already been issued.</p><p>"Calling them climate fires was making it absolutely crystal clear. It is essential that there's no ambiguity," she said </p><p>Having deliberately invoked the term, Hanson-Young soon started to push it on social media via a #climatefires hashtag. </p>
How to Talk About the Urgency of Global Heating<p>The need to use more explicit language when talking about extreme weather events linked to climate change is part of a broader push to express the urgency of global heating. In 2019, activist Greta Thunberg tweeted that the term "climate change" did not reflect the seriousness of the situation. </p><p>"Can we all now please stop saying 'climate change' and instead call it what it is: climate breakdown, climate crisis, climate emergency, ecological breakdown, ecological crisis and ecological emergency?" she wrote. </p><p>"Climate change has for a long time been talked about as something that is a danger in the future," said Hansen-Young. "But the consequences are already here. When people hear the word crisis, they understand that something has to happen, that action has to be taken."</p><p><span></span>Some terms are now used in public policy, with state and national governments, and indeed the EU Parliament, declaring an official climate emergency in the last year. </p>
Words That Reflect the Science<p>But while the West Coast governors all fervently link the fires to an unfolding climate crisis, U.S. President Donald Trump continues to avoid any reference to climate. In a briefing about the fires, he responded to overtures by Wade Crowfoot, California's Natural Resources Secretary, to work with the states on the climate crisis by stating: "It'll start getting cooler. You just watch." Crowfoot replied by saying that scientists disagreed. Trump rejoined with "I don't think science knows, actually." </p><p>It was reminiscent of the anti-science approach to the coronavirus pandemic within the Trump administration, <a href="https://www.dw.com/en/donald-trump-admits-playing-down-coronavirus-risks/a-54874350" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">at least publicly</a>. Fossil fuel companies are also benefiting from his disavowal of climate science, with the Trump administration having <a href="https://www.dw.com/en/opinion-trumps-paris-climate-accord-exit-isnt-really-a-problem/a-51124958" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">pulled out of the Paris Agreement</a> and reopened fossil fuel infrastructure like the Keystone XL pipeline. </p><p>But the science community has responded, with Scientific American magazine endorsing Trump's Democratic presidential challenger Joe Biden, the first presidential endorsement in its 175-year history. </p><p>Hanson-Young says the use of explicit language like climate fires has also been important in Australia due to the climate denialism of politicians and the press, especially in publications owned by Rupert Murdoch. As fires burnt out much of Australia's southeast coast, they were commonly blamed on arson — a tactic also recently used in the U.S.</p>
Climate Rhetoric Could Help Decide Election<p>The language of climate has begun to influence the U.S. presidential election campaign, with Democratic nominee Joe Biden labelling President Trump a "climate arsonist."</p><p>Biden is touting a robust climate plan that includes a 2050 zero emissions target and a return to the Paris Agreement. Though lacking the ambition of The New Green Deal, it has been front and center of his policy platform in recent days, at a time when five hurricanes are battering the U.S. Gulf Coast while smoke blanketing the West Coast spreads all the way to the East. </p><p>People are experiencing the climate crisis in a visceral way and almost universally relate to the language of an emergency, says Ricketts. "They know something is wrong."</p>
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World's Richest One Percent Are Producing More Than Double the Carbon Emissions as the Bottom 50 Percent
A new report from Oxfam found that the wealthiest one percent of the world produced a carbon footprint that was more than double that of the bottom 50 percent of the world, The Guardian reported. The study examined 25 years of carbon dioxide emissions and wealth inequality from 1990 to 2015.
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By Jessica Corbett
This story was originally published on Common Dreams on September 19, 2020.
Some advocates kicked off next week's Climate Week NYC early Saturday by repurposing the Metronome, a famous art installation in Union Square that used to display the time of day, as a massive "Climate Clock" in an effort to pressure governments worldwide to take swift, bold action to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and rein in human-caused global heating.
<div id="0bde7" class="rm-shortcode" data-rm-shortcode-id="002ce26d8d0c627f76d752e14d234d6e"><blockquote class="twitter-tweet twitter-custom-tweet" data-twitter-tweet-id="1307397838884741121" data-partner="rebelmouse"><div style="margin:1em 0">LIVE: #ClimateClock about to go live at Union square replacing the atronomical clock, with a carbon countdown!… https://t.co/5OzxwUwWDf</div> — Greg Schwedock🌹(⧖) (@Greg Schwedock🌹(⧖))<a href="https://twitter.com/GregSchwedock/statuses/1307397838884741121">1600542909.0</a></blockquote></div><p>A mobile climate clock that Swedish youth activist Greta Thunberg "now carries with her, as well as the larger Climate Clock project, was assembled by a team of artists, makers, scientists, and activists based in New York, and is part of the Beautiful Trouble community of projects," according to <a href="https://climateclock.world/" target="_blank">Climateclock.world</a>, which details the science behind the numbers displayed and how to install clocks in other cities.</p>
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The passing of U.S. Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg means the nation's highest court has lost a staunch advocate for women's rights and civil rights. Ginsburg was a tireless worker, who continued to serve on the bench through multiple bouts of cancer. She also leaves behind a complicated environmental legacy, as Environment and Energy News (E&E News) reported.
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