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Obesity Conference
October 18, 2013

Eyewitness News Reporter Darrah Wilcox An obesity researcher who spoke recently at a childhood obesity conference in Huntington said some obesity cases are linked to a genetic defect.

Joan C. Edwards Medical School Dean Joseph Shapiro said the average West Virginian is obese today.

"This has major health consequences, and major economic consequences, work consequences, etc," Shapiro said.

Shapiro said many obese adults started out as overweight or obese children. That's why the school of medicine hosted its first ever childhood obesity conference this month, to focus on current and future research and prevention efforts.

One of the premier researchers in the field, Dr. Jeffrey Friedman, who discovered Leptin, the obesity gene, was the keynote speaker at the conference.

"We now know that several genes that when defective, can cause obesity in humans, and this has led us to a deeper understanding of the nuerocircuitry in our brain that regulates appetite and weight," Friedman said.

Shapiro said it's a new way of thinking about and tackling the epidemic.

Friedman recommends focusing attention more on health than weight.

"I think the bottom line here is that this is not simply a matter of a lack of willpower or a toxic environment,” he said. “Different people have different genetic endowments that lead some people to become obese and others not."

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