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Don’t blame fast food, obesity is in the genes, or is it?

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On Friday 25 July, experts from Australian health and food industries will gather together to debate the problem of obesity at the University of Melbourne’s Faculty of Medicine Dentistry and Health Science’s Annual Ethics Forum.

In light of recent findings that Australia is one of the fattest nations in the world, experts say the issue of treating and understanding obesity is paramount.

“There are different ways of looking at obesity. The medical model is that obesity is a result of genetic makeup. Diet and exercise will not result in permanent weight loss in most obese people” says Convener of the Forum Professor Jeffrey Zajac, Head, Department of Medicine, (Austin Health/Northern Health).

“One view is that we can’t just blame fast food. Genetically we are designed to eat and store food. In a world where we are surrounded by feast not famine that means we find it difficult to avoid overeating and difficult to lose weight.”

Zajac says that a typical person will consume 10 million calories in ten years.

“Hunger is a compelling focus which requires multiple pathways in the brain and the stomach that ensures we keep eating.

“Any treatment is likely to involve multiple pathways – not just the one. This debate is going to be informative and controversial.”

Zajac says medical information is contradictory about the cause and treatments for obesity. He says patients, doctors, governments and the public are confused.

“Who is to blame? What to do? How to approach the problem?”

“The only thing almost everyone agrees on is that obesity is becoming more common and is occurring at a younger age.”

“Is this problem to be fixed by social change, government policy, new drugs, better medical services or patient education? Nothing is clear. Only one thing is predictable: there will be no consensus!”

“Do fat people eat too much? We all know that to lose weight you need to eat fewer calories than you expend – but this is easier said than done.”

This seminar will explore the ethics of obesity from the personal, medical, social and commercial viewpoint. It will examine the widespread discrimination against obese individuals in all areas of life – including access to medical care.

(Source: University of Melbourne: July 2008)

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Posted On: 27 July, 2008
Modified On: 30 September, 2014

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