The Diet and weight loss market is full of information that can be difficult and even controversial. “Detox from Sugar!” “Don’t Eat Bananas!” “Gluten is Bad!” We are flooded with “expert” opinions and research to encourage us to follow a specific plan to lose weight and be healthy. Paleo and Whole 30 are the new popular plans that are flooding my social media feeds in addition to Beach Body Coaches and their Shakeology magic.
The problem we are still running into, is that these plans are based on averages. Meaning, take a standard diabetic diet. That is developed based on an average of all diabetics. But we are individuals, not sums and averages. This is why I am personally so excited about the genomics movement and progress. The DNA tests out there now specifically test YOU and YOUR DNA for sensitivities and reactions to food types. They can now tell if you are a fast metabolizer or slow metabolizer. Dr. Oz mentions a famous study that proves the reliability and success of diets based on your DNA, “A now famous study conducted at Stanford University looked at the long-term effects of weight loss using a few different diets assigned at random. Results showed that some participants lost weight on one type of diet, such as low-fat, while others did not. The study then tested participants’ DNA for 3 specific gene variations and found that those using the best diet for their DNA lost as much as 2 1/2 times more weight than those not using their best DNA diet.
Eran Elinav, Immunologist at the Weizmann Institute in Rehovot, Israel, argues that we have failed to control the obesity epidemic here in America because we have provided nutritional plans based on averages, rather than focusing on the individuals ability to digest and metabolize specific nutrients.
As I read further in the NY Times article, which discusses the progress of nutrigenomics and the testing and studies that Dr. Elinav has done so far, I realized how impacting these results really are. He, and his colleagues, studied over 800 people and their individual responses to things such as chocolate ice cream, wheat bread and sushi. The results and reactions were all over that map, totally “shooting the glycemic index out the window.” Whoa.
THE GLYCEMIC INDEX IS ONLY AN AVERAGE, NOT A PROVEN GUIDELINE.
Is anyone else a bit shocked by this? I mean, for all I know I process chocolate with small reactions (I wish!), and I should avoid Broccoli because it spikes my blood sugar. That may be a bit over dramatic, but I’m sure you get the idea.
THE STUDY GETS BETTER.
As Dr. Elinav and his team further gathered information on family history, medicine, overall health etc, and they were able to come up with an algorithm to determine a nutritional plan, based on your DNA. Basically, they took a similar system that Amazon uses to suggest books or products you will like based on your history, but they tweaked it and edited it for DNA and Nutrition. WOW.
There is still some fine-tuning and testing that needs to be done to completely launch the algorithm, but how amazing will that be? Right now, there are the test out there that offer nutritional plans based on your DNA, which are much better than before, but they don’t have such an in-depth equation to determine the plan. The nutritional plan is usually created by a nutritionist based on your individual results, or you are provided general guidelines for your DNA group.
So far, 38 genes are linked to nutrient metabolism, and depending on your genes, your guideline and plan might tell you to focus on either more or less folate, vitamin C, fatty-acids, starches and caffeine.
Speaking of caffeine, coffee is a good example of how genomics helps dictate where your personal limit should be, NOT the average guideline. The CYP1A2 Gene is marked as meaning you are more sensitive to caffeine. “This gene encodes a member of the cytochrome P450 superfamily of enzymes. The cytochrome P450 proteins are monooxygenases which catalyze many reactions involved in drug metabolism and synthesis of cholesterol, steroids and other lipids,” explained on Gene Planet.
The CYP1A2 Gene plays a significant role in the enzyme responsible for digesting 95% of caffeine. The exact details on how the gene sequence is varied, I don’t quite fully understand, but you can read more about it here.
The point is that your sequence on that gene will determine how you metabolize and process your cup of coffee in the morning. Gene Planet describes the variants and effects perfectly, “Coffee has a stronger effect on people who have at least one C variant of CYP1A2 gene, than on the people who have two copies of a gene present in the A variant. A stronger caffeine effect is not necessarily favorable, because an ultimate effect of caffeine may be increased blood pressure. If one consumes more caffeine, or if the caffeine is present during a longer period in our system, it can considerably increase the blood pressure. Researchers have shown through several studies that people who metabolize caffeine more slowly, when ingesting large quantities of coffee, are much more susceptible to complications associated with high blood pressure and have an increased risk of heart attack. Given the results of previous research, slow caffeine metabolizers should not drink more than one cup of coffee a day.”
Furthernore, you can look at various genes and sequences for other substances like:
There is still a long ways to go for determining your PERFECT INDIVIDUAL diet based on your DNA, but we are getting closer and closer to developing that. Science and nutrition are merging together to profoundly impact our obesity epidemic, personal health and well-being even specialized professional sports and athletes will greatly benefit from these studies and progress! If you’re interested in moving towards a personalized plan, the best direction is talk to a doctor about your reasons for testing and wanting to develop a healthier plan, find the right test for you and talk to a nutritionist who specializes in interpreting DNA results.