In another study conducted at the University of British Columbia, participants again were divided into three groups and given articles to read about the causes of obesity. This time, one of the articles described evidence for ‘an obesity gene’, one argued that obesity is caused by social networking, and the third article was neutral. Participants were then invited to take part in a taste test, to see which cookies they liked best.
No matter how the testing was carried out, and no matter which culture it was tested in, those people who believed that overeating was the principle cause of obesity were those who ate less of the snacks. Whether the belief pre-existed or was encouraged as part of the study, the view that genes or lack of exercise were to blame for excess weight lead to “significantly more consumption of snacks.”
The researchers suggest that when people think of their weight as being controlled by genetic factors, they are likely to act as though their weight is beyond their control:
“Theories about obesity impacted their actual food choices.”
“These results suggest that obesity has an important, pervasive, and hitherto overlooked psychological antecedent.”
By the way, just in case you’re wondering, the medical community has come to a clear conclusion regarding the cause of obesity: it’s overeating, and no, your genes do not dictate this. (2)
Keep in mind that our genetic profile cannot possibly change as fast as obesity rates have soared in recent years (3):
“The prevalence of obesity has been rising steadily over the last several decades and is currently at unprecedented levels.”
Still, newspapers do love articles about all of those obesity genes. Could they actually be contributing to the problem?