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International Darwin Day

“Culture and the genetics of obesity”

​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 countries. 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.

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International Darwin Day
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