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Do you have to be fat?

The biggest danger to our health is not in our genes but in the comforts that came with 20th century life. Many of the genes in our bodies evolved to deal with hardship. Without hardship those same genes become a handicap.

fat AmericansNo.

There is a deliberate misreading of genetic science going on today, the idea that genes absolutely determine your fate.

They don't.

Genes show your inherited strengths and weaknesses. They are not tarot cards. They are playing cards. You determine what they mean, by how you act, of your own free will.

As I am learning at the Emory-Georgia Tech Predictive Health Symposium,  many genes act as risk factors for disease.

But the whole idea of knowing is so you can act. If you have genetic markers for future heart disease, lower your cholesterol. If you have markers for cancer, get tested sooner.

In the hands of lazy reporters stories about genes return us to the old nature-nurture debates of old.

Take this headline I found from India. "Obesity is in your head, not in your gut." Someone is making a pun which, given what we now know about the bacteria in our intestines, is not a pun at all but a lie.

The headline is also a way of telling the fat reader "It's not your fault."

But it is.

You don't have to lean in the direction your genetic inheritance tells you to. The whole idea of knowing that inheritance is to tell you what to lean against.

The biggest danger to our health is not in our genes but in the comforts that came with 20th century life. Many of the genes in our bodies evolved to deal with hardship. Without hardship those same genes become a handicap.

The whole idea of predictive health is that knowledge is empowering. You have the power to lose weight, to not smoke, and to live in a way that will let you play with your grandchildren one day.

Don't let the media take that away from you.