Does your DNA affect the diet you need for weight loss?

The diet industry is worth over £2 billion a year in the UK alone. People out there are making millions while the western society is wobbling into an epidemic of obesity. New diet books come out every year, each one promising their formula to be the one and only route to a beautiful, slim body. So why are there so many diets and so many formulas?

If any one of them worked for every human being, then we would only need one book.

Then there are the Programmes, ranging from the tried, tested and sensible like Weight Watchers and Slimming World, to the worryingly extreme which remove normal food and fill you with various bulked formulas. Some even start with an expensive blood test and then put you on a very low calorie diet, with limited foods, bulked by 3 litres of water. Meals are regimented to certain times and you have to travel with a weighing scales. You lose weight and fast – at least the first time – then you put it all back on and more. There is evidence that your brain registers this diet as starvation and when you try again, nothing happens.

The most alarming are the internet solutions – usually sold through a long-winded video or slide show, narrated by a high volume, high promising American who tells you that you can have the body you have always wanted without giving up the foods you love, eating whenever you like and just watching the fat melt away. You are promised beauty, confidence, admiration and even adoration if only you send $50 and get the secret formula. Then you get another slew of offers asking for more of your money, with only one day left to take up this opportunity. If you do not buy now then you are doomed to live in your fat forever. Many of us have been suckered in and the ‘solutions’ sit in our computers as a reminder of our foolishness.

The plethora of promises suggest there is no single solution. There is no single diet which is guaranteed to peel off the pounds. Even the old advice of eating fewer calories than you expend, might not work for some. Their bodies just lower the metabolic rate so that they retain the body fat they have. So, do we need to find a solution as unique to us as our genetic code? Is your DNA the answer to finding the food and exercise which will enable you to achieve and maintain the right weight for health and appearance?

The idea of eating the right food for your body-type is not new. In the 1990’s, Dr. Peter D’Adamo published the book Eat Right for Your (Blood) Type and suggested that you should eat the type of diet which was around when your blood-type first entered humanity. So for example, those of us with O+ blood types (the oldest blood-type) should eat like cavemen with a high protein, low carbohydrate diet while doing intense physical exercise. The AB blood types (the newest) would tolerate foods such as dairy which only became part of our daily diet a few hundred years ago and can just do calming exercise such as Yoga. For a while it was hailed as the solution to body management – then more books arrived, shinier on the shelf, and the blood-type diet followed the path of all diet books into the shadows. There is still, however, a very useful and informative website www.4yourtype.com.

Diet fads have come and gone – apple cider vinegar, South Beach, the 5:2 diet (though this approach researched by Michael Mosely and Mimi Spencer is based on solid research https//thefastdiet.co.uk), detoxing, paleo diet, clean eating, volumetric diet, Mediterranean diet, Atkins… and the list goes on and on.

But did Dr D’Adamo act as a pioneer for the idea that each body needs a different solution? Time has moved on and today we can access the power of our gene-types. There is a growing number of companies – many of them American – which offer genetic testing and advice on the right diet for your genetic profile. Many say they asses the 40 genes which are known to be linked to dietary responses and different physical activity.

So what can you expect from genetic testing for weight loss?

The author opted for BioClinics – Genetic Health Management. The testing kit arrived quickly and was easy to use – you simply brushed the inside of your cheek with a small brush and put it in a tube, labelled everything and sent it off. Then the wait as the promised two weeks dragged into five and the early part of six weeks. The report looks good – well laid out and clearly presented. My results showed where I lay within 6 dietary and exercise types. I learned just two things – that my diet needs to be a carb reducer and I need high metabolic exercise. In short, cut the grains, up the protein without saturated fat and up the aerobic exercise. Dietary advice was very limited (though I was encouraged to go to their website) as was exercise advice. I noted that the advice was exactly what Dr. D’Adamo’s books revealed.

So did I need to shell out over £200 to learn very little?

The research evidence suggests I probably wasted my money and that the science is nowhere near the point of being able to give such detail that I would be able to achieve a highly tailored plan which guides me to eat for my genes. Dr. Jose Ordovas of Human Nutrition Research Centre on Ageing at Tufts University has stated that looking at a handful of genes is simply not enough to guide diet. His own research is looking as 25,000 genes – not the 45 in my test.

Dr. Ahmed El-Sohemy, the founder of one of the biggest genetic testing businesses has stated himself in GQ (https://www.gq.com/are-your-genes-screwing-up-your-diet) that probably the biggest effect of testing is that people are more likely to comply with dietary changes.

Meredith Knight, contributor to the Genetic Literacy Project, having reviewed the evidence (https://geneticliteracyproject.org/2016/23/nutrigenomics-can-custom-diets-based-personal-genetics-help-lose-weight) concludes that it is very likely that in ten years’ time, the science will have advanced to guiding people on their unique profile for food and exercise. It will be a breakthrough in health management.

But it seems for now, that Genetic Testing for weight management is no better than those high-priced, high promising, low content ‘diets’ all over the internet. If you think that your body needs a more refined diet strategy, maybe best to go back to the original advice and buy the book by Dr D’Adamo available through your local bookseller or Amazon – and it is only £8.99!

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