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Getting Your Genes Into Your Jeans

The genetic side of obesity – Any number of people have remarked that one of the smartest things you can do to be healthy is to ” choose your parents wisely.”  That’s doubly important when it comes to your weight.  I feel very fortunate that I had normal-to-thin parents with no life-threatening inherited diseases (a few quirks here and there, but no cancer or diabetes, so I really mustn’t grumble).  I know plenty of people who aren’t so lucky.

I have a friend who is one of four children born to a willowy, sylph-like mother and a stocky, heavily-built father.  You’ve seen this couple a zillion times– it’s the classic “head cheerleader marries football team captain” story.  Three of the kids, both boys and one of the girls, seem to have received their genetic material exclusively from Mom’s side of the family; the other girl, sadly, got Dad’s.  She spent her formative years eating pretty much what her siblings ate, and maintaining roughly the same activity level as they did, yet her siblings were all model-thin and she was shopping at Lane Bryant.  At best, that’s got to be terribly depressing; at worst, it can drive you to dangerous starvation diets just to try to achieve your family’s “normal.”

In absolute scientific terms, you get exactly 50% of your genes from each parent.  That’s rarely how they are expressed, though.  Why?  No idea, and I started my college life as a Genetics major.  If you can figure it out, they’ll probably give you a Nobel Prize.  (I didn’t grow up planning to be an accountant.  The day I started at my firm, nine of us started together; seven of us were former science majors and the other two switched from engineering.  Nobody with a soul dreams of a future in accountancy, and I get to say that, because I AM one.)  The older I get, the more I look like my mother.  My brother is the spitting image of my mother’s father.  My sister looks like my father’s sister.  You pull the lever on the genetic slot machine and hope that it comes up sevens and not lemons.

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