Nutritional trends in general focus on weight loss, though some are aimed at treating various health conditions, particularly diabetes, cardiac disease, and cancer. As all three of these conditions have some relationship to dietary fat intake and obesity, there has been historically a great push for diets to address fat intake, particularly its reduction.
However, in the last decade, focus has shifted from low-fat diets for weight loss to so-called “low-carb” diets such at Atkins, where people reduce their carbohydrate intake drastically but are still allowed to eat as much fat and protein as they want. Some diets, such as The Zone Diet or South Beach Diet work on similar concepts but take a more moderate approach by allowing more carbohydrates and limiting amount or type of fat consumed.
While both low-fat and low-carb diets have been controversial and considered at various times to be fad diets, there appears to be some science backing up how successful each type is, dependent on people’s genes. In the recently published Reuters article, “New gene test may help you pick your diet: report,” a study has found that there are three genetic mutations that may explain why some people lose more weight on a lower carbohydrate diet, a lower fat diet, or why some may best succeed on a balanced diet. It is not clear yet why this would be the case, however the results of the 140 participant study that lasted for a year indicated a significant rise in weight loss when the person’s gene mutation matched the particular type of diet they were on, as opposed to a drop when the person was on the diet that was not associated with their particular genetic mutation. If matched appropriately, people lost an average of 5.3% of their body weight, versus an average of 2.3% when on the wrong type for their genetic makeup.
Other health indicators had a positive relationship with the various diets which were associated as best with each mutation variation. For example, cholesterol levels improved with the appropriately matched diets, which is a positive change for people with both diabetes and atherosclerosis.
Results found that the first group of people with a particular gene mutation absorbed more fat from their food, making them less likely to lose weight on a higher fat/lower carbohydrate diet. However the second group of people was associated with the gene mutation that had a positive relationship with affecting insulin response, indicating that diets higher in carbohydrates and sugars stimulated more energy stored as fat in this group of participants. The third group of people had both mutations (10-16%) and therefore will have to be careful of their consumption of both carbohydrates and fats in order to maintain a healthy weight.
What’s exciting about this information is that it validates the idea that there is no dietary “one size fits all” strategy for weight loss, and that if people are able to take a test to find out which genetic mutation they have, they could design their diet to attain a more healthy weight, thereby reducing risk of these diseases which are associated with being overweight or obese. While this does not suggest a dietary cure for these conditions, this could lead to our ability to fight the likelihood of developing these conditions in the first place, through proper nutrition and less pharmacological intervention.
I am personally very interested in this subject as I have discovered over the last ten years of my life that my body responds very well to a high protein and fat diet but not so well with a high carbohydrate and low fat diet. In fact, due to my nutrition studies, I have implemented a diet where I am eating more complex carbohydrates as well as fruit, which I generally avoid, and have found that changing from whole milk dairy products and liberal consumption of cheese to mostly whole grain snacks, low-to non-fat dairy products, and three to four servings of fruit a day, even with a lower overall caloric count, I have gained between five and ten pounds over the last three months. In the past I have gained weight as I consumed more grains and sugars, and lost them as I discovered I have a food intolerance to gluten and corn and reduced my overall carbohydrate consumption as a result.
I would like to take this gene test just to find out how I fit in this study. However, I believe it’s most important to learn from how your body responds by paying attention, and that is information I will definitely continue to consider as I work with people in the future on developing diets that suit them the best.