I can’t tell you how many times a client has said “being overweight runs in my family” or “my parents have diabetes so I’m next”. Genetics certainly play a part in your health predisposition however it should not be a limitation for the habits you can control including diet and exercise. Nutrition and genetics matter.
So how are nutrition and genetics linked?
When healthcare providers gather information about their patient’s family medical history, they are only getting a small piece of the puzzle. It’s impossible to know how much of an impact genetics make vs the environment. Actual gene testing might uncover genetic factors that influence how nutrients are absorbed and whether individual is at risk for certain health conditions but further research is needed.
Some people respond different to different nutrients. No two individuals are exactly alike genetically, except for identical twins, and even they vary because of somatic mutations in the immune system.
A couple diet components that have been trending are sodium and saturated fat. High salt intake is a proven risk factor for hypertension, cardiovascular problems and kidney disease as we all know and reducing salt can result in an immediate decrease in blood pressure that lead to long-term benefits. However, some studies have suggested that dietary sodium restriction may not be as beneficial to everyone. So, there is a need to distinguish salt-sensitive from salt-resistant individuals, but it is not necessarily easy to assess with current testing.
Research regarding salt-sensitive genes:
Saturated fat (fat from animal products and coconut oil) is also a never-ending debate. Several genes contribute to how the body processes fat and cholesterol. Certain people cannot handle high levels of saturated fat leading to high LDL cholesterol (bad cholesterol, linked to increased risk of heart disease). For these individuals it would be beneficial to decrease their saturated fat intake.
Interested in some of the research regarding the APOA2 gene? This article has great info!
Though research is clear that a variety of eating plans can help with weight loss, the goal for genetic testing is to identify an individual’s specific needs based off their DNA. Unfortunately, not all DNA testing companies provide accurate results making it not ready for widespread use.
I find it very interesting that every client I have had that’s done a “saliva genetic test” has had the same results including “being carb sensitive” and needing more omegas and green vegetables. Seems a bit fishy to me and like general nutrition advice.
So, what should you do?
If you decide to do any nutrition genetic testing, research the genetic testing company. Find a healthcare professional to help you navigate through the lab results. These tests show predispositions only and are not to be used as a diagnosis, meaning diet changes, medication and exercise may be needed.
Be aware that much of the nutrition advice generated from DNA testing is similar to general health guidance, such as to consume more fruits, vegetables, and whole grains, and reduce sodium intake.