There is an inevitable discordance between our current diet and the diet which our genes are suited to which existed over 10,000 years ago. Since the arrival of agriculture, the changes in our food and food processing procedures have created a range of chemical and physical changes in our food supply that have been linked to almost all chronic diseases of modern society including heart disease, obesity and cancer.
For example, cereals, refined sugars, refined vegetable oils and margarines, dairy products and alcohol now comprise approximately 72% of our total daily energy intake. These foods would have contributed little or no energy in the typical pre-agricultural human diet.
We all know that these foods are unhealthy and contributing to the latest epidemic – obesity. We all know that a generally healthy diet should consist of whole foods close to nature.
However, when it comes to guiding how we should eat, nutrition advice generally takes a one size fits all approach. That approach may create health for some individuals, but did you know that science can now enable nutrition, exercise and lifestyle advice to be tailored to your unique individual needs to create wellness and reduce your risk of disease?
It is our genes which influence how our bodies interact with certain nutrients, stress, exercise and the environment. Genetic profiling is essential to create personalised health care programs.
This is no new fad, but a branch of science called nutrigenetics that uses genetic profiling to check for gene variants that affect how we respond to certain nutrients or foods.
Coffee is one example. Some of us have a gene variant that makes us metabolise coffee more slowly, which can increase the risk of heart disease. Another gene variant makes some people more salt sensitive, causing an increase risk of high blood pressure if they have too much salt.
Designer Nutrition Australia (DNA) specialises in successful weight reduction and health outcomes for people who struggle to reduce their weight. An understanding of the client’s unique DNA provides the necessary clues.
The FTO gene provides a substantial amount of information. This gene is one of the ‘thrifty genes’ which pre-agriculture assisted survival in times of famine. An individual with the FTO genetic variation is wired to continue eating when food is abundant.
In primitive times these individuals would be fatter during feasting and therefore survive periods of famine, essentially ‘survival of the fittest’. However, in modern times this gene is outdated and contributes to excess weight gain in more than two thirds of the overweight and obese population.
This is because the FTO gene affects satiety. Low satiety refers to the inability to feel the sensation of fullness. People with low satiety tend to feel hungry most of the time, eat more than their physiological need and may not feel fullness even after a meal. People with this thrifty gene tend to:
- Eat larger portions.
- Eat more energy-dense foods.
- Feel hungry and eat even after a meal.
- Make healthier food choices when they exercise regularly.
People with low satiety eat 10% more calories per meal than people with normal satiety.
- Practice portion control.
- Eat Low GI foods.
- Make sure that there is a good fibre intake as it keeps you fuller for longer.
- Select whole foods close to nature.
- Plan regular exercise sessions and/or increase incidental activity. Exercise alters the epigenetics of the FTO gene giving the individual better control of leptin, improving satiety responses.
- Use an app to record monitor calorie intake. However, please note that reducing calories does not necessarily correlate with improving nutritional status hence point 4.
If you have ONE copy of the risky gene polymorphism then eating a low fat diet will assist in achieving your weight reduction goals. If you have BOTH copies then eat a low fat diet and focus on protein with every meal.
These people eat when anxious, stressed or depressed. A genetic variation in the DRD2 gene results in reduced dopamine function in the brain. People with this variation have an increased risk for addiction disorders as well as an increased risk for obesity.
In these people, the anticipation of palatable foods are used as passive compensatory means for decreased dopamine activity during emotional eating. In these individuals brain imaging shows increased brain activity in the reward centres of the brain when stressed. Consequently, the urge to seek food as a ‘reward’ or ‘comfort’ is greatly increased and they find that food very ‘rewarding’. The reward provides pleasure and therefore positively reinforces this inappropriate eating behaviour.
- Behaviour therapy
- Change of habits
- Daily relaxation techniques such as meditation, exercise, music etc.
Do You Like to Snack?
Meet the MC4R gene a close friend of the FTO gene. The modus operandi here, is to sense when our energy levels are low, urging those with the risky gene profile to eat more during the day. This gene polymorphism is found in a quarter of the population.
- Choose healthy food snacks instead of the energy dense, high fat, high sugar or salt options.
- Keep a food diary.
Genetic profiling is the key to creating slim, healthy individuals with ‘slim’ brains. Profiling can help with successful weight management by assisting people to choose the right foods, right exercise, right eating behaviours for their genes – eat right for your genotype!