Is DNA the new diet ABC?
Ever wonder why some families are just “naturally skinny” while others are more robust all round? Is this simply due to lifestyle choices and eating habits? Why is it then that even though you follow the exact same diet and exercise regime as your friend, she’s already hit her target weight and you are still struggling to shift the kilos? Could it be that a healthy diet does not come in a one-size-fits-all format?
Research has shown that 40% to 80% of the variance in body weight is due to genetic factors. The difference in every individual’s genes results in unique responses to obesity, stress and toxins, and to diet and exercise.
This means that no single weight-loss solution will work equally well for everyone. Your friend could very well lose weight following a low carbohydrate plan whilst for you it may not be as effective.
The idea that genes may play a role in weight loss and overall health has been around for a few years now. Nutrigenomics is the study of how genes interact with foods on a molecular level. This is done by testing some of your DNA in order to determine your genotype. Your genotype is like a map of your personal genetic composition. By analysing the absence or presence of certain genes, you will then be advised as to which foods you should avoid and which you should include in your daily diet.
Although nutrigenomics can be utilised specifically to aid in weight-loss, it also addresses other potential health hazards. Your genetic makeup can also make you more prone to certain diseases such as alzheimers, diabetes and heart disease, amongst others. By eating and exercising for your type, you could effectively “switch off” the genes that put you at risk, helping you lead a longer and healthier life.
How can nutrigenomics help you to lose weight?
Your genes control hormone and enzyme levels – all the basic levels of metabolism and how you metabolise food determines what happens to the nutrients and kilojoules you take in. Genetic testing today, for instance, is able to determine what proportion of carbohydrate and fat your body may best respond too. As well as determining the best form of exercise.
Your reaction to any weight-loss plan is the result of an interaction between three things: your genotype (genetic make-up) ; your phenotype (measurements of the current state of the body, from weight to body fat to blood sugar); and your lifestyle (diet, exercise and stress). Therefore, knowing what weight-management genes you have is not enough. You need to consider the impact that past dieting programmes and other factors have had on your metabolism. And of course, how your current lifestyle and diet affects your body.
What we do know is that wether you know your genotype or not, there are some key principles that will always be valuable on your weight loss journey …
- Eat more colour from nature’s colour palette, most of us don’t consume enough fruit and vegetables and if you want to lose weight then these low in kilojoules yet high in nutrients foods should be non negotiable.
- Get moving! No matter what exercise may be more effective for you, some exercise is still better than none. So take the stairs, join a gym group class, take the dog for a walk more often, try home training, you get the idea.
- Stress less and sleep more. Getting enough rest and doing things we enjoy is imperative to creating balance and to help our bodies function at their best.
The full benefit of any nutrigenomic approach to weight loss, is only realised when paired with the guidance of a healthcare professional such as a registered dietician.
For some, the answer may lie in adjusting fats and carbs. For others, it may be as simple as identifying the right type of exercise. Either way, molecular technology could possibly spell the end of the roller-coaster ride of weight-loss for many.
Just think: in the future, knowing what your genotype is can be as common as knowing your skin or hair type. This could lead to a shift in how we think about food. Instead of choosing meals we think is healthy and good for us, we will be making our selection based on what we know works best for our bodies. It might even become so commonplace that manufacturers start making products for specific groups of genotypes!
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