You must know some individuals who are seriously overweight or obese, but who seem to defy traditional health expectations, in terms of developing diabetes or frank heart disease. You may also know smokers who live till their late eighties and do not develop lung cancer. Obviously these individuals are not part of the mainstream, and one possible explanation is that their DNA or genetic makeup somehow provides unique protection. Based on that theory, it can’t come as a surprise that some of us may be pre-disposed to obesity as well, and our genetic makeup combined with our personal metabolic rate may make it easier to gain weight or harder to lose weight. One theory that attempts to explain the risk for developing type 2 diabetes (a lifestyle realted disease) suggests that some people may have a predisposition, and then habits like a highly processed diet, minimal physical activity, poor sleep patterns, stress, may instigate the disease, more so than in others. A new study attempts to shed light on how we interact with certain unhealthy foods, and the variation of impact that can occur, based on our different genetic makeup.
Researchers from Harvard School of Public Health (HSPH), Brigham and Women’s Hospital and Harvard Medical School just released a study that suggests that individuals who have a genetic predisposition to obesity appear to be at a higher risk of specifically developing obesity (and associated chronic diseases) from fried food consumption, compared to their counterparts who are not genetically predisposed to obesity. This unique study is the first to showcase that the negative health impact of fried food may be different in people, depending on their specific genetic makeup.
The theory is that a higher genetic predisposition for obesity may actually amplify or potentiate the negative health impact of consumption of fried foods, and the more you eat, the more likely you are to intensify your genetic predisposition to, in this case, develop obesity and its related diseases. The study looked at questionnaires form three specific surveys, and analyzed data from 9,623 women who were part of the Nurses’ Health Study, 6,379 men who participated in the Health Professionals Follow-up Study, and 21,426 women in the Women’s Genome Health Study. The participants answered specific questions about how often they ate fried food – at home and away from home. The information was then correlated with BMI, lifestyle factors like participation in physical activity, and genetic risk scores (for obesity) were also calculated, based on genetic variants directly associated with certain BMI measurements.
The findings showed that regular consumption of fried foods was routinely associated with higher BMIs, taking into account other dietary and fitness habits. When the researchers identified a predisposition to obesity, they found that heavy consumption of fried foods nudged the inevitable obesity to appear much more easily. Among those who ate fried foods four times per week, the impact on BMI was twice as large in those with a genetic predisposition to obesity, compared to similar individuals who only consumed fried foods twice a week.
For the co-author of the study, Frank Hu, a professor of nutrition and epidemiology at HSPH, the takeaway message is more than just you are what you eat. You may be born with a predisposition to weight issues, specifically obesity. And if you have a particular genetic makeup, just changing certain habits could have a profound positive affect on your weight and your health. Your genes and the diet you choose matter…..a lot.
Amy Hendel is a Physician Assistant and Health Coach with over 20 years of experience. Noted author, journalist and lifestyle expert, she brings extensive expertise to her monthly shareposts. Her most recent book, The 4 Habits of Healthy Families is available for purchase online, and you can watch her in action on her shows Food Rescue and What's for Lunch? Sign up for her daily health tweets or catch her daily news report at www.healthgal.com.
Published On: March 20, 2014