Updated: Sep 10, 2022
The weight loss industry is a multibillion-dollar endeavor, and many people fall into its grip each year. Most of these “solutions” can be categorized as fad diets and simply do not work long term. A more personalized approach is a better solution to this problem. One way we can get personal is by looking at your genetics or your DNA. Most people are aware that we get our genes from our parents, and they can determine things like eye color, hair color, and many more traits. What many do not know is that our genes can reveal things about our health and wellness, including how our bodies process food and how efficient or inefficient it is at fueling our bodies. This is a first in a series of posts that will identify the modifiable gene variations and how they can influence your health.
Genetics helps us take the guesswork out of why one person may be successful with losing weight and another is not, even when they are exclusively following the same
advice. Or why someone can lose weight and keep it off while another puts the weight back on or, even worse, gains more. As a dietitian and consulting with many people struggling with these concerns, I can attest that losing weight is not easy and it is even harder when you cannot figure out what you are doing “wrong”. I am here to tell you that you may not be doing anything “wrong”, you may just be following the wrong roadmap to get there. If you are struggling with your weight, as many are, looking at your genetics can be a powerful roadmap to get you to your goal efficiently and effectively.
There are various clues that your DNA can give us as guideposts to why you just cannot seem to get your weight under control. Today we will discuss some of the genes that can be responsible for your ability to lose weight and keep it off. These genes all play a role in your metabolism and how efficient or inefficient you are at using your food for energy. They all have a very small effect on their own, but when you look at them together as a big picture, they can tell us your weight story.
appetite. Depending on which variation of this gene you have, it can be the cause of weight loss resistance and rebound weight gain. How well you tap into your fat stores for energy which can affect your ability to lose weight when you exercise is influenced by these genes. You could be spending hours at the gym, but if you have a certain variation of these genes, you will not see the weight loss results you are hoping for. Should you try a high protein diet or not? Higher protein diets lead to increased weight loss with a certain variation of the FTO gene, while the other variation does not give you the same results.
The ADRB3 and PLIN genes affects your Basal Metabolic Rate (BMR) or how many calories you burn in a day, as well as, how your body utilizes fat and how quickly it stores fat. Depending on which variation of these genes you have, it can influence your risk of increased fat storage and how resistant you are to losing weight.
The UCP genes (UCP1, UCP2, UCP3) are often compared to the fuel efficiency of your car. They are one of the main predictors of how slow or fast your metabolism is. When you are thinking about a car, if the car is able to run longer on less gas, that is beneficial. However, if WE are more fuel efficient, meaning we run longer on less food, that can be less beneficial in todays world. Being more fuel efficient would have been a benefit in caveman days when there was less food available, but today that can get us into a predicament and cause weight gain and many metabolic disorders. These genes tell us if you could successfully lose or maintain your weight by decreasing your daily calorie intake by 10-20% or if by increasing your exercise could have an effect on your weight. They also play a role in the amount of Brown Fat VS White Fat you have in your body. Simply put, white fat is what we normally think of when we think about the fat cells you have you in your body. Brown Fat, on the other hand, is more metabolically active and burns both carbohydrates and fat, including your stored fat. So, if you goal is to increase your metabolism and burn more calories; the more brown fat you have the better off you will be. We have the most brown fat in our body when we are born and we slowly lose the amount we have over time, the amount you have and how quickly you lose it can be influenced by which genetic variation you are born with.
There are ways to increase your brown fat, cold exposure is the most researched way
of doing this. Recent studies have shown that exposure to temperatures ranging from 10 – 17°C (50 – 62°F) for 2 – 6 hours per day for 10 days to 4 weeks can dramatically (45 – 65%) boost activity of brown fat. Not surprisingly, these short-term cold acclimation studies have also led to significant reductions in White Fat, the unwanted type of body fat.
Additional ways to increase brown fat:
· Resveratrol, a polyphenol found in the skin of grapes, has been shown to brown previously white fat and boost metabolism.
· Capsaicin is the pungent compound that gives peppers their heat; it also activates brown fat, boosts the metabolism, and helps reduce body fat.
· Grains of Paradise (Afromomum melegueta) is a species of the ginger family that has been shown to activate brown fat and decrease belly fat
· Exercise can help brown previously white fat by activating a hormone called Irisin, which has been referred to as the “exercise hormone.”
· Healthy circadian rhythms and getting adequate sleep may also be involved in brown fat activity, as the sleep-related hormone melatonin seems to regulate brown fat metabolism.
And finally, the PPAR genes (PPARG, PPARA, PPARD, PPARCC1A) these genes have been called the master regulators of metabolism. They can cause an inflammatory response to fat cells when you are eating a high calorie diet and/or are not physically active. Increased weight has been associated with a high fat diet because of this inflammatory response. PPARG is often called the “thrifty gene” because if you have a certain variation, it is very efficient at energy storage. Again, this goes back to being more fuel efficient and would have been beneficial back in cavemen days as it would have allowed you to go long periods of time without food; unfortunately we don't need that today where food is more than available 24/7. A keto or high fat diet may not be beneficial to someone with certain variations of these genes due to the bodies inflammatory response to a high fat diet. Good information to know when you are trying to determine your ideal diet for not only weight loss, but for overall health.
This is all great information, but what does it all mean? And what can YOU do? As you can see, following a certain diet or exercise plan without knowing your DNA can be like “flying blind”. You may stumble upon something that works or you may feel as if you have tried everything, and nothing is working. By knowing your genetic variations, you have road map of how you can effectively and efficiently reach your goals. You will know whether exercising will help you lose weight or not, whether time restricted eating or intermittent fasting could be beneficial to you for weight loss, whether eating your final meal of the day earlier is beneficial to you and ideally, what that meal should look like for you to lose weight or avoid regaining weight. Should you focus on more complex carbohydrates, should you eat more protein and decrease your carbohydrates or does the composition of your meals not matter to your body. These are all questions that can be answered by doing a genetic test that is interpreted by a trained clinician who can give you a personalized nutrition and lifestyle plan that will set YOU up for success.
If you are ready to see what your genes can tell you and get off of that frustrating roller coaster,
please reach out to us. We want you to reach your goals and we are here to help you read that roadmap and give you actionable steps so you can get to your ultimate destination.
If you missed the previous blog that highlighted the many areas related to your health influenced by gene variations. Please click here to read more.
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