A wave of recent research is supporting what many doctors, nutritionists, and other health professionals have suspected for a long time: there is no one ideal diet that works for everyone. Using data obtained from the Human Genome Project, researchers are studying hundreds of different genetic variants and how they affect our health — including the way our bodies react to and process food.
In the past, nutritional studies have typically been conducted on large groups of people, with results reported as averages. This means that any outlying variances are essentially lost, leading to the formation of dietary recommendations that simply don’t work for everyone. If you’ve ever wondered why nutritional studies often seem contradictory, or why two people can achieve drastically different results eating the same diet, the answer lies in nutrigenomics: the scientific study of the interaction between nutrition and genetics. Researchers are now discovering that our genes play a huge role in how we respond to different foods — and can even tell us our ideal diet for preventing disease, feeling our best, and maintaining a healthy weight.
How your genes affect your weight
Not surprisingly, one of the key health issues affected by genetics is weight. Researchers have discovered more than 300 genes that influence body weight. Some of these directly affect your weight by regulating how your body burns or stores fat. Others may act more indirectly by making you more likely to crave unhealthy foods.
The following are just a few examples of how your genetics influence weight:
- Up to 85 percent of the population carries variants of the ADIPOQ gene that result in lower levels of a hormone called adiponectin, which helps regulate a number of processes related to metabolism and insulin sensitivity. Carriers of these ADIPOQ variants are less effective at burning fat and using glucose, putting them at an increased risk of both obesity and diabetes.
- Variations in genes known as the PPAR genes affect how people use food for energy. One variant leads to a reduced ability to convert food into fat, making carriers of this variant less likely to gain weight than someone with a different variant.
- People with a variant in the FTO gene are more likely to gain weight when eating fried foods and drinking sugary beverages.
- Variations in the LEPR gene influence how and when you burn energy, which could lead to a faster or slower metabolism.
- A variation in the SLCa2 gene can cause people to crave more sugar.
With so many different factors at play, it’s no wonder people often get frustrated with trial-and-error diets. You may be following your doctor’s advice to the letter, but if you aren’t addressing the genetic influences that regulate important factors such as hunger, metabolism, and food cravings, you may feel like the cards are stacked against you.
How learning more about your genetics can help you meet your health goals
Research shows that people who eat a genetically appropriate diet can lose up to 2 ½ times as much weight as people on the same diet who are not genetically suited to benefit from it. In addition to weight loss, understanding your individual genotype can reveal a wealth of information that will help you stay healthy and prevent disease:
- Which exercises are most beneficial for your body, so that you can spend your workout time on the activities that deliver the best results
- Which vitamin deficiencies you may be at risk of, and foods you may want to add to your diet to prevent symptoms associated with vitamin deficiencies
- How your body reacts to certain foods, including caffeine, sweets, lactose, and alcohol
- Metabolic health factors you are predisposed to, including high LDL cholesterol and elevated blood sugar
Our weight-loss clinics are now offering Vivaliti DNA, a personalized genetic test that provides you with a detailed 49-page genetic report, including actionable steps you can take to lose weight, increase energy, prevent disease, and protect your health as you age. Ask about Vivaliti DNA at your next appointment, or schedule a no-cost consultation to learn more!