National Academy of Medicine

Can We Change the Way Our Genes Behave and Pave the Way Forward for Childhood Obesity Prevention?

By Shari Barkin and Chelsea Lee
March 17, 2016 | Commentary

Despite a recent plateau in obesity rates among preschool children, childhood obesity continues to be a significant public health concern, particularly among Latino and African-American children who are at a higher risk for childhood obesity. While genetic and environmental factors, including diet and physical activity, are known contributors to obesity risk, we now believe that individual variations in genetic expression result from interactions between one’s environment and genetics through epigenetic mechanisms. The epigenome is highly dynamic and appears to change in response to age and environmental exposures including diet and physical activity. This could provide a crucial link to understanding developmental plasticity in early childhood.

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Disclaimer: The views expressed in this paper are those of the authors and not necessarily of the authors’ organizations, the National Academy of Medicine (NAM), or the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine (the National Academies). The paper is intended to help inform and stimulate discussion. It is not a report of the NAM or the National Academies. Copyright by the National Academy of Sciences. All rights reserved.