December 11, 2018

In 1987, about 14 per cent of Canadian adults qualified as overweight or obese.

As of 2017, research done by the Public Health Agency of Canada has reported that 64 per cent of Canadian adults over the age of 18 are overweight or obese, and 30 per cent of children aged 5 – 17 are overweight or obese.

New research is shedding a light that, as important frequent exercise and a healthy diet are, sometimes there are underlying genetic factors that play a role.

A new study from Western University this month showed that “a protein called Pannexin 1 (Panx1) significantly regulates the accumulation of fat in mice. Panx1 is a glycoprotein involved in cell signalling, which plays an important role in early development.”

Silvia Penuela, the lead researcher that links a gene to obesity

The study, published in Scientific Reports, “suggests that a deletion of the Panx1 gene in the early stages of development of mouse fat cells increases the amount of fat accumulated, leading to a higher risk for obesity later in life.”  

“What this tells us is that if you have this deletion in mice or loss-of-function mutation in humans that makes Panx1 work improperly, then you might be prone to accumulate more fat,” said Silvia Penuela, assistant professor at Western’s Schulich School of Medicine and Dentistry and lead author on the study.

While unlocking a potential link between weight and genetics may be years away, Penuela hopes the study will generate funds and more in-depth research with years to come.

Although the gene may be a possibility, what you consume will determine your lifestyle, said Heather Clark, a personal trainer. Canada’s obesity rate has reached an all-time high and that is extremely concerning. Unhealthy choices are endorsed every day. The most important message we can put out is for people to be aware of what they are consuming, Clark said.

Youth are at a very vulnerable stage and thousands of ads of unhealthy foods are displayed on social media outlets each day, according to Amanda Polope, a University of Manitoba human nutrition graduate. Franchises such as Mcdonald’s target young children through the Happy Meal ads. When a child views the ad, they are being targeted as to how to get a cool toy by purchasing a Happy Meal, Polope said.

It has become socially acceptable to eat unhealthy foods, such as pizzas and burgers, at parties, events and family get-togethers. Being surrounded by unhealthy choices and influences makes it hard to say no. On any given day 34 per cent of our youth aged 2 -19 will consume fast food. Those are facts. As a nation, we need to step up or we will head down a very dark path, says Polope.

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