Saturday, May 21, 2011

I'm not a scientist but...

As you may have guessed from the theme of this blog, I can't help but read articles about nutrition when I stumble across them and Sunday papers are a popular host for this topic. So this morning I was reading the Sunday magazine of the Age newspaper, I was drawn to an article by Michelle Bridges, of Biggest Loser fame, about whether genetics plays a role in weight problems (sadly it's not online yet so I can't make the link).

The article starts out by saying "I am not a scientist". No problem, I'm not a nutritionist either but I like discussing stuff around the food and nutrition. However, I'm a bit nervous that a series of scientific conclusions are drawn from some research that Michelle has read and the way her arguments are played out.

The thrust is that "it's not the genetic cards you've been dealt, but rather how you play them that determines much about your physical health and wellbeing." I actually like this bit of the argument as it's a good message that people can control their own health destiny and that eating right and exerising can improve your health - even if that is a bit of an obvious message.

The bit of logic that concerned me was that this therefore dispels the "fat-gene" theory which suggests some of us are incapable of losing weight. Whoa,whoa, whoa Michelle - are you trying to say that people don't have different metabolisms?? She goes on to note that the Biggest Loser trainers manage to get weight off people even when they claimed nothing worked. Sure they did, but these contestants had also never been able to take 12 weeks off work before to exercise and be cooked healthy, nutritious meals all day, every day.

I think it's a important, and only fair, to acknowledge that some people find it much harder to lose weight than others and that this is kind of a "fat gene", and that this means some people need more or less food and exercise than others. I think we've all met someone who can shovel it in and be rake thin (I live with one of these people). Metabolism rates are real and shouldn't be dismissed as a lame excuse.

Recognising different metabolisms seems to me to be such an important thing when you're feeding kids too. It's easy to worry that you're little guy is eating too much when he has had three breakfasts when you've just met someone who said their kid wouldn't even have a cup of milk in the morning. However, kids seem to know better than grown ups what their bodies need (when offered reasonable food choices of course).

It seems to me that teaching kids to eat and drink when they're hungry is an important step in making sure that they have a healthy attitude to food into the future. But as I said, I'm not a nutritionist...

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