Nature Vs Nurture: what’s Fueling the Obesity Epidemic?

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Human genetics determines the range of our weight, and food and exercise determine where we actually fall within that range. Nowadays people perhaps compare others through their figure and dietary habits. As a result, the topic of an individual’s weight impacted by nature or nurture has attracted much attention. The nature versus nurture debate involves whether human behavior is determined by the environment, either prenatal or during a person’s life, or by a person’s genes. While some individuals believe that factors that contribute to obesity have been decided when people are born, others deem that these are formed generally in daily life and affected by circumstance. There is little doubt that there are many reasons for a person becoming obese, some of the studies have pointed to both genetic (nature) and environmental (nurture) factors as contributing. According to Fung (2012), nurture and nature can contribute to the development of obesity. He talked about how the nature vs. nurture debate is the philosophical debate about whether the basis of human obesity is caused primarily by nature or nurture. In other words, the process of nature from inborn to human nature. Nurture is usually about what is caused by our environment. In addition, the new forecast comes from a CDC and Duke University report indicated that the percentage of obese Americans will reach 42% in the next 20 years (Fung, 2012).

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Frayling, a professor of human genetics at the University of Exeter, published a paper in the British Medical Journal (Fung, 2012). Based on that, he studied genetic factors for obesity and states they are more important than environmental factors. In his research study, he stated that adiposity between twins is concordant in up to 70 percent of cases and that people with two copies called FTO gene are generally heavier than those without the gene variant (Fung, 2012, para 2). In other words, obesity between twins is often the same because they share the same genes. In addition, people with obesity-related genes, especially for those who are often sedentary, are heavier than those with the gene who are physically active. He writes, “If everyone inhaled the same amount of cigarette smoke every day, the strongest risk factor for lung cancer would be a genetic susceptibility to the adverse effects of cigarette smoke.” (Fung, 2012, para 3). This means if people smoke the same amount of cigarettes a day, the risk of lung cancer is determined by genetic factors. As a result, he concludes that our DNA may be more responsible for human obesity than the environment around us.

On the contrary, Wilding J, a professor of medicine at the University of Liverpool, believes the significant increase in obesity in recent years is irrelevant to genetic factors (Fung, 2012). On the BMJ reports, he indicated that the environment has more impact on obesity (Fung, 2012). Many factors greatly increase the possibility of individual obesity, especially for the high-calorie food supply in culture and the decline of physically active lifestyles. I think limited access to fresh fruits and vegetables, or meals frequently eaten away from home are also the reasons why people get obese. Although a large number of fat generating tendencies are inherited, environmental impact is inevitable. Frayling, the researcher who argues for genetics, says because the FTO gene controls appetite, putting environmental cues in place and helping adjust American eating environments will help them control their weight (Fung, 2012). However, these findings seem consistent with Wilding’s conclusion that our surrounding is a powerful determinant. I agree with Wilding’s opinion because our gene expression can be altered based on the epigenome.

This means our nature can also be expressed differently based on nurture. I think our environment influences us, including diet and human behaviors. A rapid increase in obesity in recent years is more likely to be attributable to changes in lifestyle. Lifestyle factors contributing to obesity include lack of physical activity, sedentary activities, and eating a high-calorie diet among people. In this situation, people cannot control our genes but they can control what they put in their mouths. In my opinion, individuals should try their best to limit daily intake to avoid obesity problems, especially for people whose weight is above the normal standard. On the other hand, our environment influences an individual’s diet a lot, such as fast food. Fast Food is known to be the biggest cause of obesity in America. Nowadays, if we go on the street, we can find that fast food is everywhere, the reason why fast food is so popular lies in that it is convenient. People can finish their meals quickly and spend more time doing work. Fast food indeed saves people a lot of time, but it is not good for our health. This left regular consumers of fast food prone to accidental obesity, in which they grew fat while eating portions they did not consider large.

According to Jane E. Brody (2013), more and more people are obese because they prefer to eat outside rather than cook at home. About half a century ago, the number of obese people began to increase. With a rise in daily calories, people spend less time to cook and eat at home. According to the Department of Agriculture, in 1970 the average food supply was 2086 calories per person per day. By 2010, this number has risen to 2534 calories, an increase of more than 20% (Brody, 2013). Taking an additional 448 calories a day increases the average adult weight by nearly 50 pounds a year. Demographic changes, and how the food and restaurant industries responded to them, compounded the problem. More and more women entered the workforce, and their family home-made meals for the family became less and less frequent.

According to the U.S. Department of Agriculture from 2005 to 2008, 20 percent of Americans consumed calories in fast-food restaurants and full-service restaurants, three times more than from 1977 to 1978 (Brody, 2013). The department calculated that eating just one meal a week away from home can translate into two extra pounds a year for the average person. Although the recent recession has forced more people to eat at home, nonetheless the average adult eats out nearly five times a week (Brody, 2013). In my opinion, people who are busy all the time do not have enough time to make their own food. They feel tired after a day’s work, and they prefer ordering food or eating out after work. Also, the warm atmosphere of the restaurant provides the perfect background to an individual’s pleasant meal. Americans are busy, dining out is both convenient and enjoyable. Sometimes, restaurants that offer larger portions do not significantly increase their expenditure. When people get used to bigger portion sizes, even when eating at home, they fill their plates. Willpower seldom helps people who struggle with their weight. Our society must change because we are constantly tempted to eat more, especially more calorie-rich foods. Michael Pollan, an author, and journalist at Science Daily of London School of Economics had said, “Eat food. Not too much. Mostly plants.” (Pollan, 2015, para 18). His latest book, cooking: A Natural History of Transformation, adds a corollary: “cook yourself .” (Brody, 2013, para 18) I believe that nothing is more important than our health, people should consider home-cooked food contains better ingredients, also we know what we are eating. Cook by yourself, don’t try too often to eat outside, you have no idea whether restaurants use recycled oil for cooking or not. Also, it’s a waste of money. What about affordable foods like fast food? I agree fast food is cheap but it may get addicting. Eating fast food all the time can put you up against some major health risks.

In conclusion, in general, it’s not easy to differentiate between nature and nurture. Obesity has more impact on people because all of our behaviors are influenced by both nature and nurture. In my opinion, I think obesity is the result of the interaction between nature and nurture, they are both very influential. Which has more impact on obesity nature or nurture? Like most things, I think there is no simple answer to this question. The most important thing is I believe that it is very likely that it varies from person to person. In my opinion, we should consider the wide range of factors that have contributed to an individual’s weight gain, and help them make positive changes to their lifestyle to achieve a healthier weight range.


Fung, B. (2012, September 12) On the Nature vs. Nurture of Obesity. The

Atlantic: Health. New York: National Journal.

Brody, J. E. (2013, May 20) Many Fronts in Fighting Obesity. The New York Times: Personal

Health. Retrieved April 28, 2019 from:

London School of Economics (LSE). (2015, February 11). ‘Nurture’ more important than

‘nature’ in childhood obesity. ScienceDaily. Retrieved April 28, 2019 from:

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Nature vs Nurture: What's Fueling the Obesity Epidemic?. (2020, Apr 02). Retrieved August 17, 2022 , from

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