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Your Genetics May Determine the Best Diet
There is No Universally Healthy Diet

Diet and Your DNA
Your DNA may decide your best diet.

Going on a diet can be both difficult and confusing. Programs are promoted with assurances that THIS TIME it'll work for you. When studies are conducted, a certain percentage of people succeed, but there are always groups who don't respond.

Even in tightly controlled clinical trials, there always seem to be some people who don't lose the weight expected. A few even experience negative effects from the diet tried. In an attempt to dig deeper into what's going on, researcher William Barrington of North Carolina State University decided to see if there might be a genetic basis for the problems.

In a lab at Texas A&M University, the experimenters used four strains of genetically different mice. They were fed various diets to see the effects. The diets tested were the standard Western diet, traditional Mediterranean diet, traditional Japanese diet, an Atkins-like low carb diet called the ketogenic diet and standard mouse chow.

One strain of mice, referred to as NOD/ShiLtJ gained weight on every diet except the Japanese diet. The A/J mice didn't seem to have problems no matter which diet they followed. The C57BL/6J mice got fat on the Mediterranean diet but lost weight on the ketogenic diet. While FVB/NJ mice gained weight and experienced high cholesterol on the ketogenic diet but lost weight the Mediterranean way.

Barrington said, "Mice provide a powerful model for studying the effects of diets in different genetic backgrounds because they have similar susceptibilities to obesity and metabolic syndrome, and we can model the genetic diversity that is seen in humans while controlling for environmental factors..."

What Barrington and his fellow researchers concluded was something obvious to dietitians and health practitioners for decades. "There's no universally healthy diet..." Barrington also stated, "Our study showed that the impact of the diet is likely dependent on the genetic composition of the individual eating the diet, meaning that different individuals have different optimal diets."

There are lots of reasons why diets fail. Consistent access to healthy foods, the ability to exercise and even the support (or sabotaging) by friends and loved ones. But acknowledging there might be a diet that would be more appropriate for you, based on your genetics, is revolutionary.

Researchers will need time to figure out how to classify people and learn what works best for each group. There's unlikely to be a genetic test to determine your best diet for a few more years. If you see companies advertising genetic tests for dieting, ask for proof. See if they've done clinical trials and clearly identified DNA markers to identify what works best for what group. Without double-blind trials as proof, they're simply making unproven claims and trying to take your money. In the meantime, there are things you can do today to figure out what may work for your situation.

Start by building an understanding of what you currently eat and drink. You can write everything down on a piece of paper, but I prefer something a little more interactive. There's a free program called MyFitnessPal. You can use it online and you can download the app on smartphones like the iPhone or Android.

Build a profile and enter what you're eating and drinking, every day for a week. Then go back and evaluate your diet. Make a note of what items are adding too many calories or triggering unhealthy binges. Once you've figured out a balanced approach, use your tracking logs as a PLANNING tool.

Make a plan in the morning (or the night before) of what you’re going to eat daily. Then write it all down or enter it in your food log. Carry that list with you and use it as a menu for everything you'll eat and drink.

The key to this approach is that it doesn't make you change your eating habits to suit a particular diet. It uses what you currently eat, and exposes it for your scrutiny.

A diet isn't about getting to the finish line and stopping. People who do that, tend to put all the weight back on, plus more. A healthy diet is about making long-term, structural changes that you can live with, for the rest of your life. Until there's a genetic test, tracking and modifying is the best option available.

Want more ideas? Learn about our approach to Fixing Fat here.

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beginning any diet or exercise program.