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Child obesity gene discovery may cut fat-related child protection cases

{Promoted from the forums - CarrieP}

The BBC is reporting that a group of Cambridge researchers have discovered a genetic factor common to a number of children and teens labelled as 'severely obese'. They also seem to have identified further links between these 'copy number variants' and the regulation of blood sugar levels and appetite, concerns frequently discussed over the years on these very boards (far be it for me to suggest that people in the FA movement have long known what others have persistently refused even to attempt to demonstrate). Worryingly, several of the study's young participants had already been placed on local authority child protection registers 'on the assumption that their parents were deliberately overfeeding them'; the research findings are apparently sufficiently robust that those participants who were previously slated for intervention or removal by the social services have now been deleted from the database and their parents presumably exonerated.

I give this news a cautious welcome, for the 'may' of the headline is not by any means a 'will' and the enormous moral panic and incessant misinformation of the last decade have left us with a metaphorical supertanker of ignorance and prejudice to stop and turn around before the social work and child health professions begin to realise that a child's size may be as natural as their height and entirely unrelated to parental immorality, abuse or neglect. After all, last month's effective admission by a major obesity research institute that their initial apocalyptic predictions, on which much of the policy and media overreaction seen since in the UK have been based, were way off the mark has so far failed to have much by way impact on those policy makers and the government approach to the 'issue' and indeed was quickly shunted from the front pages.

However it is an important step forward which I am hoping that, given the esteem in which the University of Cambridge is held, will maybe encourage more researchers to break from the consensus and have the courage to challenge the assumptions about over-eating and lack of exercise (and perhaps even the scale of the 'epidemic' itself) without fear of censure and dismissal. Most importantly, tonight maybe Britain's fat children and their entirely blameless parents can sleep that little bit easier in their beds as a result of this good work by Dr. Farooqi and her team. I hope that David Rogers, the Local Government Association public health spokesman who called for a nationwide policy of taking obese children into care a couple of years back, sees this and eats his words, and that lawyers acting for the Dundee family, whose teenage son and daughter remain in the hands of the local authority, are paying attention.

ETA: more about the story here, from AOL via the NAAFA blog (whatever you do, don't read the comments on the AOL link!).

Colleges and Wellness | Check out this great discussion

DeeLeigh's picture
DeeLeigh
December 15th, 2009 | Link | Regarding the UK's National

Regarding the UK's National Heart Forum, we may think that their predictions were ridiculous and have now been proven wrong, but they're spinning it entirely differently. Here's a quote from the article:

"The researchers said it was not clear why obesity levels might have levelled off, but said government interventions and media coverage may have played a role."

So, they made an exaggerated prediction and are now trying to say that harsh, prejudicial media coverage and public policy have succeeded at stopping the "obesity epidemic" and should therefore obviously be maintained or stepped up. Nice.

As for the discovery of a specific genetic pattern that makes some children fat... well, that's just completely unsurprising, isn't it? Has anyone here ever tried to make a child who wasn't hungry eat? It doesn't work.

vesta44's picture
vesta44
December 31st, 2009 | Link | I wonder if there's a

I wonder if there's a similar genetic component for women who start out life average-sized (weight-wise), but taller than women of their era, and end up getting fatter when they have children and as they age. I'm wondering this because I recently got some pictures of my maternal grandmother and her sisters. Those pictures show them from the time they were kids through their teens, married years, and old age (they were born between 1900 and 1905). All of them were 5' 6" to 5' 8" tall as adults, and average-sized until they married and had kids. Once they had kids, they gained weight and would have been considered "obese" today. Life expectancy for women born then was only, what, 50 years? All of them lived to be at least 78, and my grandmother was 86 when she passed away (and she was still fat, in spite of having lost quite a bit of weight as she passed 70).
Hell, even my grandfather, who was 90 when he passed away, was taller than average for that era, he was 6' 1". He would also have been considered fat by today's standards, though when I was a kid, I always thought he was just husky and strongly built (and from those same pictures, he was big as a young man too).
I realize that my family is just anecdata, but I'm sure there are other families that have similar stories. If this is so, then it seems to me that "obesity", far from being life-shortening, could actually be life-lengthening, especially since the powers-that-be say our life spans are increasing, at the same time they are bemoaning the so-called "obesity epidemic". Seems to me there is some kind of correlation going on, and not a negative one.

WLS - Sorry, not my preferred way of dying. *glares at doctor recommending it*

Beanietude's picture
Beanietude
January 2nd, 2010 | Link | I see where you're going

I see where you're going with this line of reasoning, Vesta, and I definitely think there's some logic behind it. I, too, have relatives who lived well into their 80s, but would be considered "obese" by today's standards. Most of my ancestors of this body type came largely from the Highlands of Scotland. I always figured their bodies had evolved as a direct consequence of their very rugged, and sometimes openly hostile, surroundings. I've often wondered if this alleged obesity epidemic, assuming for a second even a little of it is accurate, may just be humans evolving further. When the next ice age comes (and it will!), I think the thin amongst us, particularly those who fight their biology to remain that way, are going to feel duped.

wriggle99 January 3rd, 2010 | Link | I always figured their

I always figured their bodies had evolved as a direct consequence of their very rugged, and sometimes openly hostile, surroundings.

That sounds a lot like us today.

Bilt4Cmfrt's picture
Bilt4Cmfrt
January 5th, 2010 | Link | When the next ice age comes


When the next ice age comes (and it will!), I think the thin amongst us, particularly those who fight their biology to remain that way, are going to feel duped.

More likely they'll just swarm into equatorial, 3rd world, countries and ruin things even further until the money runs out and the tables finally turn [Sorry, reading way to much post apocalyptic Sci-Fi lately].

This does sound a rather hopeful note considering the fact that this 'blame the parents' attitude only seems prevalent here in the US and UK. And hasn't, yet, seemed to propagate into the rest of the world like most fatphobic attitudes have [although there are some rather alarming things going on in China. Cultures vary]. Still, as Richie says, it's going to take a lot to stop the juggernaut of righteousness that fuels this stupidity. It's always easier to detail and decry 'faults' in OTHER peoples children and the way their being raised than it is to examine One's own and admit to missteps or flaws. Particularly ridiculous when it's commonly acknowledged that there is no such thing as an operating manuel when it comes to raising kids, but then that's, kind of the root of the problem, isn't it?

Like 'Calories in / Calories out', people expect human bodies to operate like machines. Requiring the same amounts of 'fuel' , each unit will of course use that 'fuel' in exactly the same manner/proportions/rates, and generate the exact same amounts of output. Anything else is just denial of FAT. Thus, raising children must follow a set list of operating procedures [for OTHER/FAT people, of course] that will generate predictable, proven, results. If not? Well, UR DoIN it R0NG! FATTY! And biodiversity, obviously, doesn't or shouldn't exist.

This turn of events might be a bright spot but sometimes I do find myself mourning the death critical thinking.

Learn how to logic- Lesson #3
BMI is NOT an indicator of health.
It isn't even a good indicator of size and cannot be used to ascertain the current or future health of ANY given individual.

wriggle99 January 5th, 2010 | Link | Well, maybe our bodies do

Well, maybe our bodies do operate like the proverbial meat machines, they just don't operate how some very self important people insist they must.

We don't design our bodies, we don't control the fact that our hearts beat or that our lungs can take in air, that doesn't seem to be a problem. We can live with that.

But say that hey, it seems we have less control when it comes to regulating our eating and weight, or even that, maybe we can gain some control, but not the way you're saying and suddenly, a rubicon has been crossed. It's unacceptable, intolerable, degenerate and it's hands over ears 'lah lah lah we can't hear you'.

It's bizarre.

paellataffy's picture
paellataffy
February 19th, 2010 | Link | Child obesity and the British social services

There has been a worrying number of examples lately of obese children being taken into care on the assumption that their parents are either too pig ignorant to understand basic nutrition or are forcefeeding them like foie gras geese.

If this situation had existed when I was young I'm sure that my parents would have been constantly under scrutiny.

This kind of moral posturing that continually occurs in the UK is driving me mad.

Want to know what I think of life, the universe and everything? Visit my blog, A View From a Broad at http://paellataffy.blogspot.com and find out!

richie79's picture
richie79
February 19th, 2010 | Link | Paellataffy, it's even

Paellataffy, it's even scarier when you consider what is being classified as 'obesity' in Britain these days - under some of these PCTs, half of my childhood friends and every one of my exes would be on 'at risk' registers, their parents perpetually hassled by social workers wanting to snoop through their fridges and start hacking away at their stomachs. Never mind that this Cambridge team isn't the first to identify a gene link and certainly won't be the last. I noticed your expatriate status - whilst it's always good to see another big fat Brit on the 'Blog (welcome! Smiling ), believe me, you're better off out of a country that's destined for hell in a handcart, and not for the reasons the Daily Mail would have you believe.

"A waist is a terrible thing to mind" - Tom Wilson

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