Obesity And The Third Generation
( Originally Published 1929 )
CAN obesity be inherited? Are there families which are"naturally fat"?
On this question the authorities are divided. A tendency to inherited obesity has been recognized in the breeding of animals. Certain types of horses, cattle and poultry by selection and care are developed to unusual weight. Whole races of human beings, such as the Hottentots and the South Sea Islanders are peculiarly susceptible to obesity. And of course we all know the fat father who has several fat sons and fat daughters.
Yet we are not scientifically justified in concluding that this is the result of inheritance. It seems more likely that it is the result of imitation. Dietary habits become standardized throughout an entire family, an entire community or even amen-tire race.
Every father—even the glutton!—is a hero to his own children, at least when they are young. And mother, as the queen of the kitchen, selects the foods that are to be set on the family table and the quantities to be served. Thus parents transmit to their children their methods of food selection.
Hacking at the Family Tree
Children do not understand dietetics and they unconsciously fall into their parents' ways of life. Should overeating be one of them the habit is quickly adopted by daily custom. Fondness for certain kinds of food is taken by the child from the parent. If starchy and fatty foods are preferred by the parents, they take precedence in the child's minds over the essential foods. Children easily fall into the habit of eating such foods even without actual appetite.
So you fat parents, who are undeniably interested in the health and success of your children, owe them the obligation of preventing them from becoming what you already are.
If there were any assurance that the dietetic orgies of the obese person would hurt him alone and no one else, a rough-and-ready rule of justice might countenance his eating to his heart's content and his body's disaster. No sane adult can deny that his corpulence and food habits may handicap if not wholly mar the life of his children. You may not eat with your knife at the table but you will certainly be hacking away at your family tree if you assume the responsibility of producing short-lived descendants.