Happiness Quotient vs. Obesity

Do certain genes exert influence over a person’s likelihood of developing an addiction to food and/or eating? It does seem likely.

Fatty acid amide hydrolase (FAAH) will act to suppress the benefits of anandamide (also known as the “bliss molecule“) in the body. A variant of FAAH has a feature called the A allele, which helps prevent the chemical degradation of anandamide. Consequently, about one in five people are genetically predisposed to be naturally happy, because their anandamide is not thwarted by FAAH.

People in certain countries tend to be happy, and they tend to be people with that genetic makeup. Researchers consulted data from three World Values Surveys (2000-2014) and found that “nations with the highest prevalence of the A allele are quite clearly also those who perceive themselves happiest.”

They include:

[…] Ghana and Nigeria in West Africa, and northern Latin American nations, such as Mexico and Colombia… Northern Europeans such as Swedes were found to have a much higher prevalence of the A allele — and more often rate themselves as being very happy — than their cousins from Central or Southern Europe.

In a similar collection of statistics on happiness or subjective well-being, gathered for the World Happiness Report for 2012-2014 (the most recent end of the World Values Range) we find more details. According to their chart, the 15 happiest countries in that era were (starting with the happiest):

Switzerland, Iceland, Denmark, Norway, Canada, Finland, Netherlands, Sweden, New Zealand, Australia, Israel, Costa Rica, Austria, Mexico, United States.

It is generally accepted that a lot of overeating, and therefore obesity, results from emotionally unhappy states like depression, frustration, unrequited love, etc. The question at hand is, does the general happiness level of these special people in these countries, keep them slim? Does the presence of AEA in their systems, unhindered by the restrictive efforts of FAAH, reduce their anxiety and other negative emotions enough to prevent them from becoming obese?

If emotional conflict and societal stress lead to bad eating, does happiness mean better dietary habits and thus less obesity? What are the least obese countries, and do they match up with the happiest?

(To be continued…)

Your responses and feedback are welcome!

Source: “Genes may contribute to making some nations happier than others,” ScienceDaily.com, 01’14/16
Source: “The happiest countries in the world, according to neuroscientists, statisticians, and economists,” BusinessInsider.com, 04/23/15
Image by Alan/CC BY 2.0

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About Dr. Robert A. Pretlow

Dr. Robert A. Pretlow is a pediatrician and childhood obesity specialist. He has been researching and spreading awareness on the childhood obesity epidemic in the US for more than a decade.
You can contact Dr. Pretlow at:


Dr. Pretlow’s invited presentation at the American Society of Animal Science 2020 Conference
What’s Causing Obesity in Companion Animals and What Can We Do About It

Dr. Pretlow’s invited presentation at the World Obesity Federation 2019 Conference:
Food/Eating Addiction and the Displacement Mechanism

Dr. Pretlow’s Multi-Center Clinical Trial Kick-off Speech 2018:
Obesity: Tackling the Root Cause

Dr. Pretlow’s 2017 Workshop on
Treatment of Obesity Using the Addiction Model

Dr. Pretlow’s invited presentation for
TEC and UNC 2016

Dr. Pretlow’s invited presentation at the 2015 Obesity Summit in London, UK.

Dr. Pretlow’s invited keynote at the 2014 European Childhood Obesity Group Congress in Salzburg, Austria.

Dr. Pretlow’s presentation at the 2013 European Congress on Obesity in Liverpool, UK.

Dr. Pretlow’s presentation at the 2011 International Conference on Childhood Obesity in Lisbon, Portugal.

Dr. Pretlow’s presentation at the 2010 Uniting Against Childhood Obesity Conference in Houston, TX.

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