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As the Pima Indians show, environment definitely plays a role in fat loss, but so do genes to some degree. The Pima Indians have what we call the thrifty gene hypothesis: some people are well designed to store excess food when it is available, setting the stage for diabesity.
Other genes also contribute, such as brain genes, which code the receptors of the pleasure-producing neurotransmitter, dopamine. In some cases, these genes make dopamine receptors that are not as responsive to dopamine’s pleasure signals which makes us eat more and more in order to be satisfied.
When I mention drugs, you probably think of cocaine or heroin. Indeed, they trigger dopamine receptors. However, refined carbohydrates, protein, and sugar, the most abundant and abused drug, also trigger these dopamine receptors. When your dopamine receptors need more stimulation to feel pleasure, they set the stage for cravings and addiction.
We are very aware that sugar acts like cocaine and drives food addiction, as well as overeating.
Research shows that sugar is actually more addictive than cocaine. In one study, researchers offered sugar and cocaine to rats. It was no contest; the rats chose the sugar over the cocaine.
Researchers concluded that extreme stimulation of the brain’s pleasure receptors by sugar-rich diets generates an extreme reward signal in the brain, overriding the self-control mechanisms and leading to addiction.
Other genetic factors also play a role here. New and emerging research shows how different people have varying responses to carbohydrates and fats. Some of us do better with more omega 3 fat, while others thrive on saturated fat. Some people respond better with more omega 6 fats. There can be big differences in how we respond to different types of fat. These effects impact blood sugar, cholesterol, and even gut bacteria.
Rather than obsessively worry about genetics, your body can be the best way to gauge how you should eat. How do you feel after eating certain foods? Are you feeling alert and vibrant with abundant energy, or are you feeling sluggish, bloated, and foggy?
7 Ways to Simplify Weight Loss
While your genes play some role, they do not determine your destiny. Regardless of your genetics and other conditions, anyone can start with these seven strategies for weight loss and optimal health:
In a nutshell, stop worrying about your genes! You can do plenty to ensure that you are on the right path to achieving a healthy weight and optimal health. Your lifestyle and food choices are much better indicators of your health and weight than your genes.
You can reach optimal weight and metabolism and reverse most chronic diseases. Some of us have to work a bit harder than others, but it’s very possible for almost everyone. Never, ever lose hope.
Mark HymanMark Hyman, MD, believes that we all deserve a life of vitality - and that we have the potential to create it for ourselves. That’s why he is dedicated to tackling the root causes of chronic disease by harnessing the power of Functional Medicine to transform healthcare. Dr. Hyman and his team work every day to empower people, organizations, and communities to heal their bodies and minds, and improve our social and economic resilience.