BLOGS Ask the Pharmacist Ask the Pharmacist: March 2017

Q: Can I be genetically predisposed to obesity, and what can I do to prevent weight gain?

A: There are ongoing studies about genetic mutations causing obesity. Syndromes that have obesity as a characteristic stemming from a genetic disorder generally have several contributing factors. But whether we are born with the predisposition to obesity or that obesity causes brain chemistry changes that create the perfect storm is up for discussion. Genetic testing can be a source of information as a guide to create lifestyle habits that preclude excessive weight gain at any age.

Certain individuals have a genetic mutation that was selected for survival. This is the theory proposed by Dr. Richard Johnson, who said that “the mutation resulted in a greater increase in uric acid in response to fruit, and thereby allowed us to increase our fat stores more easily during periods of famine.” This mutation is a “fat switch” that is turned on when we are exposed to excess sugar, mainly fructose. While we don’t generally have scarcity today, and therefore have no need to store energy to abate starvation, we can create the perfect storm by over consuming certain foods and cause massive fat storage. We have an abundance of food available now all the time, and it’s not necessarily nutritional. We don’t have to move and we don’t have to go outside to get sunlight. We can stay inside, bathed in blue light and reach for food whenever we are bored. While experts in weight loss research differ in their conclusion about why some people can maintain a healthy weight and some people become obese, the facts are in, over 50% of Americans are tipping the scales toward obesity.

Why do some people naturally experience the ability to stop eating when they are full, have food aversion and nausea if overfull, and want to get up and move around after eating, while others never get a clue that they are full? It has to do with the hormones leptin and insulin. Leptin tells your brain that you have had enough. It is made by your adipose (fat) cells, and when we eat an overabundance of unhealthy food our brain ignores the stop cue and there is no satiety. It’s called leptin resistance, and it, along with rising blood sugar, causes increased insulin. Increased insulin causes fat storage by shunting excess sugar to fat. It drives weight gain by increasing food intake (due to hunger!) to compensate for the increasing insulin and the cycle continues.

Off balance of these hormones trickles down to another metabolism regulator, the thyroid. When your body is unable to efficiently use leptin, it alerts the brain to decrease thyroid activity to protect your body from perceived starvation. The storm continues and you continue to gain weight. It is increasingly difficult to control behavior (the urge to eat more) when physiology and biochemistry are hard wired to protect us. Willpower becomes overwhelmed by biology.

Another theory by Dr. Jack Kruse is that leptin is the electronic accountant in the brain and artificial light is destroying us. He has a prescription to regain leptin sensitivity. It is about food choice, timing of meals, sunlight exposure in your eyes and on your skin, avoidance of blue lights (think TV, cell phones, computers) after dark, and stress reduction. He claims it is a healing process that will first show up as reduced food craving, better sleep and weight loss. Only when those improvements are in place, does exercise become an important component. Dr. Kruse creates the vision that light, seafood, water and cold thermogenesis reduce inflammation and are the keys to vitality. Be sure to go outside, especially in the morning, and experience the benefits of sunlight and the improvement in your energy level throughout the day.

Genetic testing and learning about the sequencing of your DNA in order to discover your genetic differences may provide insight into health issues and weight gain. It’s about the mitochondia, and we all inherit these ancient powerhouse cells from our mother. It’s time to find out what your mother gave you, and it’s time to learn about how food is information to our bodies. There is food everywhere, and the big manufacturers make it taste so good. Hormone issues and constant overeating can be reversed. It is a matter of making the choices and getting the support and information. Let’s all promote a healthy generation of women to provide the best genetic material for our future children. Do whatever it takes to get support through that process and you will be successful.

Deidre (Dee) Kohley, Rph, works at Watkins Pharmacy, is a graduate of Ferris University and has lived all her life in Muskegon. She continues to find ways to reach women who genuinely want to get well or live an optimal life. Dee loves digging into research to find new ways to help people. She is married and has seven children and nine grandchildren who keep her busy. She loves the beach and spending time outside enjoying the seasons. You can contact her by going to her website or

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