It’s a new year, 2017 to be exact. It’s hard to believe really, shouldn’t we all own flying cars by now? Maybe next year perhaps? Regardless of how far into the future we are, the start of a new year usually comes with the promise of change, the pledge of an improved and better you and these are usually always in the form of New Year Resolutions.
When it comes to New Year Resolutions the front runner is usually almost always to do with health, weight and fitness with a whopping 54% of resolutions made in this area, however, only around 8% of us see our resolutions through and succeed in our goals (1).
According to the ABS Australian Health Survey, over 2.3 million Australians were on diets at the time of the survey and, two-thirds of these people were on diets to lose weight (2).
Clearly, as a Nation we are obsessed with our weight and always striving to be healthier. Because of this high demand - businesses know how to make their money so we are constantly bombarded with what is healthy and what is not. Some people swear by this diet and others swear by that diet. One person lost 20 kilos drinking this product, another by eating that product. Some diets tell you to eat like this, others tell you to eat like that, and of course they are all based on the latest ‘research’.
So why do some people get success from one diet while another person can barely function on it? Why can some people thrive on a vegetarian diet and other people feel horrible no matter how healthy they eat? The answer - because none of us are genetically the same and, surprise surprise, this means our genes all require different foods and nutrients to function at their best to make us our healthiest.
Dieting is not healthy. Eating real, healthy, fresh, clean food that suits your genetic makeup is.
Nutrition for your genes
For a very, very, very, very, VERY long time we have been told what to eat to be healthy. We are told how much of each particular ‘food group’ we need to consume on a daily basis to maintain our health and keep chronic illness at bay- all that matters is our sex, our age and our activity status, and perhaps a few other bits and pieces.
So why are we getting sicker and fatter? Do you think possibly it is because we are all individuals with different likes, dislikes, wants, needs, desires…oh, and genes?? No, surely not?
Nutrigenetics and Nutrigenomics are defined as the science of the effect of genetic variation on dietary response and the role of nutrients and bioactive food compounds in gene expression, respectively (4). Basically what this means is, science is now showing proof that as our genes are all different, this difference sees us respond in our own way to certain foods and nutrients and that these nutrients also have a way of operating our genes, turning them ‘on’ and off’ (this is referred to as gene expression) so, they can either send us down the path of health and wellness or sickness, disease and obesity.
We are obviously all made up of our own unique DNA, this is what carries all of our genetic information. It makes our eyes blue and our hair curly. Our genes make up our DNA and are specific sets of nucleotides (I like to think of these as ingredients to a recipe). These nucleotides have been given the following names- Adenine, Cytosine, Guanine, Thymine or more simply A,C,G and T. Ok, I know what you’re thinking - I just wanted to read a blog on how I could lose weight, keep it off and feel better, what’s with the biology lesson?! You’ll understand in a moment…
Any who’s…back to those nucleotides. So they’re like ingredients, one gene may consist of two A’s, a few C’s, a couple of G’s and a sprinkle of a T, then the recipe is complete and it then starts all over again with a new set of ingredients to make a new recipe, or gene. Humans are made up of similar recipes; and this is why science understands the roles our genes play and how they ‘should’ behave (this is why it is thought we all act or react the same to foods and their compounds) however, the ingredients to the recipes can change. Usually it is only one ingredient- maybe where most people have an A, you have a T (for example) - this is called a single nucleotide polymorphism (SNPs or ‘Snips’) and this small ingredient change can alter the expression of that gene making it function differently to how science expects it to.
The change in these nucleotides/ingredients can occur due to many different reasons- they can happen because of the environment we live in, the medications we take (including vitamins), the food we eat or any physical and emotional trauma we are exposed to. And here’s the kicker - they can also be caused by all, or any, of these things happening to our great, great, great, great, great (I’m sure you get the picture now) grandparent. Yep, our genes are passed down to us - mutations and all!
SNPs and our Individual Health
There are absolutely hundreds and thousands of SNPs that can occur within the human genome- many of which have not been studied, or even discovered! More and more are being discovered each day and just reiterating how important it truly is to eat for your genes and not your jeans.
One example of this is the Glu27 gene. Women with a SNP in this gene and a carbohydrate intake constituting more than 49% of total caloric consumption had a nearly three-fold increase in their risk of developing obesity (5). However, the Nutrient Reference Values for Australia and New Zealand suggest a Carbohydrate intake of 45%-65% of daily total caloric intake for a ‘healthy’ diet (6).
On the opposite side of the fence sit people with a variant in the FGF21 gene, who when it comes to weight loss, respond better with a low calorie, low-fat, high carbohydrate diet (7).
Weight loss isn’t the only aspect of our health that’s reliant on how our genes are operating. What about the old who is healthier vegan’s vs meat eater’s debacle. Well guess what - again it’s got to do with your genes. No matter how nutritionally adequate a vegan diet appears to be, genetic variation truly determines how healthy and thriving one can be on a solely plant based diet. BCMO1 is responsible for the conversion of plant-based forms of Vitamin A (beta-carotene) into active (useable) forms within the body. There are several SNPs that can halter this process and can lead to vitamin A deficiency when other forms (such as those that would be found from animal and meat products that don’t require activation) are not consumed (9).
There are honestly thousands of gene variations which impact many aspects of our health, these are only a few examples. Our genes, whether in correct whole form or not, can determine if we are more likely to get cancer to how we react to Panadol, to how easy we can lose weight, to how easily we gain weight and to what foods suit us better.
So next time you and your friend embark on the same diet with a weight loss goal in mind and he loses weight and you don’t, don’t feel like a failure because more likely than not, it’s in your genes (unless you kept sneaking cake!)
How our gut can help
Our gut is home to trillions of bacteria that also possess their own ingredients and recipes - their nucleotides and genes. Our gut flora is inherited and altered in much the same way that our genes are. Our ‘human’ genes can interact with their ‘microbial’ genes and vice versa. In fact, research is now suggesting that our gut flora can have a direct affect on the way our genes are expressed and that when certain populations of gut microbiota are evident they can actually ‘switch off’ genes and gene variants that make someone susceptible to obesity, diabetes and other health conditions. That being said, the wrong types of gut microbiota are also able to turn ‘on’ these genes.
It’s a bit what came first the chicken or the egg isn’t it?
Regardless of what came first, by keeping a healthy, balanced and diverse gut microbiome we will be sending the correct signals to our genes, which will send the correct signals to our cells, then to our hormones, then to our organs and eventually, back to our gut bugs again and we will be in a true state of health that doesn’t require calorie counting- or soup (unless of course you feel like eating soup!) You will be eating for you. ALL of you.
Is personalised Nutrition the future?
Personalised Nutrition should be now! Currently, personalised medicine and nutrition are not completely applied into the everyday medical scheme, except of course if you see the right type of health professional.
We are as unique on the inside as we are on the outside, none of us look the same, so why is it expected that when it comes to our health we all respond the same to everything that is available?
Kultured Wellness not only takes into account genetic individuality when it comes to our clients on the 6 month program, we also screen the uniqueness of their microflora which gives us a whole picture of their genetic makeup.
All though this sounds like a complex way of eating and looking after yourself, it really isn’t. It brings you to a whole new level of health and will enable you to fit into your favourite jeans whilst feeding your genes!
- Finder.com, https://www.finder.com.au/press-release-new-years-resolution-statistics-2015-2016
- Australian Bureau of Statistics, http://www.abs.gov.au/australianhealthsurvey
- Nutrition Education Materials Online, The Dieting Cycle, 2014 https://www.health.qld.gov.au/__data/assets/pdf_file/0030/154983/wtmgt_dietingcycle.pdf (3)
- Fenech, M et al, Nutrigenetics and Nutrigenomics: Viewpoints on the Current Status and Applications in Nutrition Research and Practice, 2011, Journal of Nutrigenetics and Nutrigenomics, issue 4, p69-89 https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3121546/
- Martinez JA, et al, Obesity risk is associated with carbohydrate intake in women carrying the Gln27Glu beta2-adrenoceptor polymorphism,2003, J. Of Nutrition, issue 133, pp 2549-2554. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2137135/ 5
- National Health and Medical research Council, Nutrient Reference values for Australia and New Zealand, https://www.nrv.gov.au/chronic-disease/macronutrient-balance
- FGF21 Genotype Modifies Effects of Weight-Loss Diets on Central Adiposity and Body Composition, 2016, Elsevier, Diabetes-Practice Update, http://www.practiceupdate.com/c/45985/1/8/?utm_source=TrendMD&utm_medium=cpc&utm_campaign=PracticeUpdate_TrendMD_1
- Goodrich JK, et al, Human genetics shape the gut microbiome, 2015, PMC, 159, pp 789 799 https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4255478/
- Minger, D, 4 Reasons Why Some People Do Well as Vegans (While Others Fail Miserably, 2016, Authority Nutrition, https://authoritynutrition.com/4-reasons-some-do-well-as-vegans/