Exploring the Perfect Diet for Your Genes

Dieting is often an endless cycle of losing weight and gaining it all back. Thousands of diets exist, but how do you know which one is best for you? The answer may lie in your DNA.

 

The idea of the DNA diet is rooted in the scientifically proven reality that dieting simply doesn't work for many people. According to studies, 95% of people will gain back the weight they lose within a few years, and 41% of those who attempt dieting will eventually gain back more weight than they lost.

 

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. 

 

"This genetic testing is a brand new field, nutrigenomics, the link between genes and nutrition," says David Katz, MD, nutrition expert and founder of the Yale Prevention Center. "It makes sense because our genes control hormone levels, enzyme levels - all the basic levels of metabolism. And how we metabolize food determines what happens to the nutrients and calories we take in."

 

While DNA testing is available and relatively affordable, you don't necessarily have to take a DNA test to determine your best diet. "There are numerous signs," says Keri Glassman, a registered dietician. "Physical measures -- the  things you see in the mirror, clinical measures -- simple  tests you get at a yearly check-up, and also symptomatic measures, ways you're feeling physically or emotionally."

Here are examples of 3 DNA-based diets -- low-fat , low-carb and balanced -- and  how to determine which may be best for your genetic makeup.

 

A Low-Fat Diet

May be best for your DNA if you have:

  • Heart disease in your family
  • Low energy levels
  • High LDL cholesterol

A low-fat diet can provide weight loss and protect you from diseases you're predisposed to. Avoid fatty foods, refined sugars and carbohydrates; they can make you feel lethargic. For best energy, eat low-fat carbs, including whole grains like quinoa, or legumes, like black beans. Choose monounsaturated fats like olive oil and avocado to improve your HDL cholesterol.

 

Low-Fat Diet Basics

Consume no more than 77 grams of fat per day

 

Portion breakdown

  • 70% carbs
  • 15% protein
  • 15% fat

Click here for some low-fat diet recipes.

A Low-Carb Diet

May be best for your DNA if you have:

  • Weight around your midsection
  • High blood pressure
  • High triglycerides

If your waist is greater than 35 inches, you're at risk for heart disease, gall bladder disease and diabetes. You may be insulin resistant, which means you have difficulty processing sugar. By losing 10% of your body weight, you can also lower your blood pressure. Choose lean healthy proteins and limit the amount of carbs, especially refined white foods like starchy potatoes and bread.

 

Low-Carb Diet Basics

Consume between 20-60 grams of carbs a day  

 

Portion breakdown:

  • 30% carbs
  • 40% fat
  • 30% protein

Click here for some low-carb recipes.


A Balanced Diet

May be best for your DNA if you have:

  • Family history of diabetes or heart disease
  • Mediterranean ethnicity
  • Frequent indigestion or constipation

"If it was good enough for your parents, it's good enough for you," says Dr. Katz. "That's the real power of nutrigenetics. It reminds us of the importance of our heritage." For example Scandinavians do very well consuming dairy because they are lactose tolerant, whereas, many Native Americans and Chinese are lactose intolerant.

 

Balanced Diet Basics

Portion breakdown

  • 50% carbs
  • 30% fat
  • 20% protein

Click here for some balanced diet recipes.

 

Lastly, Dr. Katz adds, "These diets all work. It's a simple amount of calories consumed versus calories spent. The testing gives us a very interesting tool to potentially know what diet works best for you. But we already know the tools that can protect us from so many diseases - heart disease, cancer, diabetes. It's eating more fruits and vegetable and less processed foods, and regular exercise."