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Obesity: Fitting into your genes
Monday 7 July saw the third sciBAr at The Eagle pub in Cambridge, sponsored by the MRC as part of the DNA 50 celebrations.
The audience consisted of students, health professionals, and interested pub goers. Professor Nick Finer of the University of Cambridge and Addenbrookes Hospital kicked off the discussion with a talk on the causes of obesity, demonstrating the genetic and lifestyle aspects of the condition. He also discussed the prejudices against obese and overweight people, the growing rate of obesity and the general increase in body weight of people in the UK and many other countries, particularly in developing nations.
Candice Philipps, a State Registered Dietician then gave a talk which included information on the difference in calories between various different foods and the increased portion sizes found in shops and restaurants nowadays. She also raised the issue of food labelling and the importance of understanding the significance of the labels.
An enthusiastic pub local got the discussion going with a question about his father who is fit but large and cannot seem to lose weight! The discussion continued with many attendees making comments or asking questions, key points were:
  • Whether it was right for people to litigate against McDonalds and other fast food companies.
  • Attitudes to obesity and its causation, whether the genetic cause might make it an easier condition for people to deal with, or even to use it as an excuse for their condition. Professor Finer said he felt that having two classes of disease, lifestyle and genetic was not a helpful distinction and that the focus should be on helping people to be healthier.
  • The importance of good food labelling was raised in connection togovernment legislation.
  • Government schemes to educate c hildren on healthy eating were also discussed. It was raised that America spends millions on healthy eating education yet has an incredibly high number of obese people
  • Stress and weight gain. The speakers and a member of the audience explained that carbohydrates cause the brain to release serotonin, which is why people eat sweets and high carbohydrate food when stressed.
    Sweets and high carb food are also often used as treats for children, creatingan association between carbohydrates and feeling good.
A good evening with lots of interesting discussion among a various people who might not normally discuss science in the pub.