Causes of Obesity in Men
It’s time to face up to what overeating and inactivity are doing to us
Can genes cause obesity in men?
How did we get so fat? “Obviously there’s a genetic component to obesity, “
says Barbara Rolls, PhD. Rolls holds the Helen A. Guthrie Chair in Nutritional
Sciences at Pennsylvania State University. “But,” she adds, “the surge in
obesity clearly can’t be due to genetic changes. We don’t evolve that
That said, when it comes to getting fat, not all men are created equal. The
genetic differences are clear from studies conducted by Claude Bouchard, PhD,
of the Pennington Biomedical Research Center at Louisiana State University.
Controlled portions of food were given over 100 days to sets of identical
twins. While weight gain was similar for each pair of twins, it varied
dramatically among the pairs. Some sets of twins gained as few as eight pounds
during the “overfeeding” experiment, while others put on as much as 26
We all know a few men who can quaff and stuff it all in their wooden legs
and still weigh what they did in college. Some people are more predisposed to
gain more weight than others, and research indicates that gaining weight
rapidly as an infant is associated with a higher risk of adult obesity.
“We don’t know whether the weight gain in infancy is a cause of obesity, or
whether they are both controlled by the same gene or perhaps by cultural
practices,” says Nicolas Stettler, MD, MSCE, a professor of pediatrics at the
University of Pennsylvania. But it may well be that some of us developed
metabolic patterns in infancy that continue to influence our eating habits
But genes don’t explain the increase in obesity. “I think we can safely say
that at the end of the day, the cause of obesity is eating more than you need
for your physical activity,” says Stettler. “We eat more, and the availability
of more sedentary entertainment leads people to be more sedentary.”
Bigger portions breed bigger appetites which can lead to obesity
Men eat 70% more at a sitting than women do, Rolls tells WebMD. But, she
says, men are “the primordial eating machines.” They tend to listen to their
bodies more while women eat what they think they are supposed to eat.