4PM-4:30PM ISE Lab 315
Mia Papas, Assistant Professor of Behavioral Health and Nutrition
“Culture and the genetics of obesity”
Abstract: Obesity is a critical global health problem for the
21st century. Worldwide, 1.5 billion adults over the age of 18 years
are either overweight or obese, and this number is expected to increase
to 3 billion by 2030.
Once thought to be a disease of the affluent, obesity has increased
rapidly in low-and middle-income countries over the past several
decades. Currently, there are over 42 million children under the age of 5
years old who are overweight or obese, with rates of childhood obesity
in low and middle-income countries 30% higher than those of high-income
Attributable population health impacts expected to increase with the
rising prevalence of obesity include elevated risk of chronic diseases,
such as cardiovascular disease, diabetes, and cancer; all of which
account for extensive healthcare utilization and cost. Since obesity
has become common among children, many projections estimate decreased
life expectancy for future generations due to the higher rates of
lifelong obesity. In the United States, obesity accounts for nearly 20%
of premature mortality (i.e., death prior to average life expectancy).
Research into the cause of the rapid global increase in obesity has
examined a multitude of theories that include both genetic and
environmental factors. I will focus on several leading causal theories
positing a genetic contribution to the obesity pandemic including the
thrifty gene hypothesis, natural selection in favor of fat storage, and
the interaction of hormones and endocrine disruption with
socio-environmental shifts that have occurred.
I will discuss the contributions that advanced data analytics can
provide to understanding how excess energy intake, sedentary lifestyles,
environmental exposures, and underlying genetic selection combine to
create the obesity pandemic.
Bio: Mia Papas is an Assistant Professor of Behavioral Health
& Nutrition. Her research interests include: Dietary Intakes and
Obesity Across the Lifespan; Obesity and the Built Environment; Maternal
and Child Health; Congenital Hearing Loss; Cancer Screening and Cancer
Prevention in Populations.