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Why Diets Don't Always Work continued...

"Most of these genes are completely novel, and that tells us that we really didn't understand what we were dealing with in terms of obesity, so it's not surprising that most of our recommendations to control weight don't work," she tells WebMD. "We hope that with further work we can narrow down how these genes work and develop new ways to sub-classify obesity and tailor treatments."

"Genes load the gun, the environment pulls the trigger," says Scott Kahan, MD, co-director of the George Washington University Weight Management Program in Washington, D.C., in an email. "Even as we continue to educate people about obesity, healthy eating, physical activity, etc., ultimately we're not going to get very far until we address the root cause of obesity/weight gain in our population."

"We have a genetic makeup that evolved over millions of years to be effective for thriving as hunter-gatherers (i.e. having minimal food availability, having to search/hunt for food regularly, having regular famines and food scarcity) but we now live in an environment that is very different from what our genes have evolved to do," he says.

"We no longer have to hunt out food, food is incredibly available and dirt cheap, food is now 'engineered' to pack an incredible density of calories, famines are now essentially nonexistent in our population, and most of us have to spend our days glued to a chair in order to satisfy job requirements and get our paycheck," he says. "This disconnect is at the root of the obesity epidemic [and] in addition to teaching people about healthy behaviors and such, we need to address the environment and, if possible, our genetic makeup."

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