Why Your Genes May Hold The Secret To What You Should Be Eating

By Nicole Dominique··  6 min read
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Should You Base Your Diet On Your Genes? shutterstock

It’s time to finally ditch “one-size-fits-all” fad diets for a more personalized, tailor-made nutrition plan made just for you and your body.

We usually tell our friends and family about how great we feel when we finally find a diet that works for us, forgetting that it doesn’t necessarily mean that they will also find it beneficial. 

Nutrigenomics studies the relationship between nutrition, genetics, and health. It’s true that the way our bodies respond to different types of food is dependent on our own DNA and maybe even our blood type. Our ancestry built and expressed specific genes for our survival, hence why some genetic variants can affect the way food is absorbed, metabolized, distributed, and excreted. It’s the same reason why some people feel fine after eating foods high in carbohydrates or starch, while others may feel inflamed shortly after eating the same thing. 

Keeping this in mind, it seems a little silly for anyone to promote specific diets to others without knowing anything about their ancestry or the way their body works. But thanks to modern technology, more people are learning about nutrigenomics, with millions now having access to tests that allow them to personalize their diet and optimize their health.

Eat According to Your Genes 

The study of nutrigenomics is still new: it began in the 1990s and was led by the Human Genome Project. By 2007, scientists started to discover the relationship between diseases, genetics, and nutrition. So, based on someone’s genes passed down to them by their ancestors, clinicians are able to customize an individual’s diet based on their genome in order to prevent diseases, avoid food intolerances, and improve their overall health. 

Dr. Ahmed Al-Sohemy, one of the top researchers for nutrigenomics, explains it best: “Nutrigenomics, sometimes called nutritional genomics, investigates how the foods we eat interact with our genes to affect our health. The questions we typically ask are, ‘How much of each nutrient should a particular person consume?’ and, ‘What are the biological effects of a specific supplement?’”

Nutrigenomics researchers investigate how “how common variations found throughout the human genome explain individual differences in response to dietary intake.” This would explain why different people have different responses to the same foods, nutrients, and kinds of diets.

Nutrients and bioactive components in food can turn on or off certain genes, impacting our health.

Another thing that nutrigenomics researchers investigate is “how nutrients and bioactive components in food turn on or off certain genes – these genes impact important metabolic and physiologic processes in the body...this line of research helps us understand the mechanisms behind how food, and specific compounds within food, can impact our health.” 

One example is how broccoli “switches on a specific gene that helps the body detoxify...harmful chemicals.” However, the gene that gets “switched” on by the compounds found in broccoli is missing in about 20% of the population, proving that not everyone gets the same benefits from certain foods based on their individual genes. 

Yet, even though it makes sense to personalize a diet that caters to one’s genetic makeup, the practice still garners controversy in the scientific community. Some healthcare professionals believe that it’s not ready for clinical use and that there’s a lack of evidence in some of the observational studies. And even though nutrigenomics is an emerging science that sounds promising, the healthcare system has not found a way yet to translate the current studies into actual practice. But don’t fret, you don’t need to spend an insane amount of money to have a dietician customize your diet for you anyway. You can easily do it at home for an affordable price.

How To Customize Your Diet

To start eating according to your genes, you have to order a DNA test kit from verified websites (for less than $100, though!). It’s a simple process compared to going to a clinic – you just swab and ship your DNA back to the lab. The timeline of receiving the results greatly varies and can take up to 2-3 months. The test results will show you your variants that have an effect on the way your body metabolizes specific foods. Most of these tests include meal plans and a list of foods you should avoid. 

Most of these DNA tests include meal plans and a list of foods you should avoid according to your results. 

However, if you’re someone who doesn’t want to take a DNA test (understandable), but still wants to customize your diet according to your needs, then you can try the elimination diet: the process of removing certain foods and ingredients which are later re-introduced to note any reactions. 

But genes may not be the only component that can have an effect on the way we metabolize food – there’s also a theory that we can eat according to our blood type. 

The Blood Type Diet 

The blood type diet garnered attention in 1996 when Dr. Peter D’Adamo, a naturopathic physician, published Eat Right 4 Your Type which detailed meal plans that correspond to the four blood types O, A, B, and AB. 

According to D’Adamo, eating based on your blood type can help you live a healthier and longer lifespan while also helping you achieve your ideal weight. However, it’s worth noting that this diet in particular does not have substantial evidence of its efficacy. But knowing your blood type can still be beneficial when looking into some of the dietary risk factors that are associated with some of these blood types. Nevertheless, it still doesn’t hurt to try, so here’s a summarized version of the dietary guidelines by Dr. D’Adamo:

Type O Blood

Those with O blood greatly benefit from eating animal products. A high-protein diet should be the focus for these individuals while also limiting legumes, wheat, corn, grains, and dairy. 

Type A Blood

Individuals with this blood type will benefit from a mostly vegetarian or pescetarian diet rich in fruits, vegetables, and seafood. Most animal products, dairy, wheat, corn, and beans should be avoided. 

Type B Blood

People with this blood type should avoid chicken and replace it with other proteins like mutton, rabbit, goat, eggs, seafood, and liver. Most vegetables are fine on this diet, but some of the things they should avoid are wheat, peanuts, and corn.

Type AB Blood

Lastly, those with AB blood should eat dairy, meat, tofu, kelp, vegetables, and seafood. However, chicken, wheat, corn, and kidney and lima beans should be avoided.

Closing Thoughts

Just like how drugs can affect each person differently, foods can do the same thing. No one’s biology is exactly the same, and our individuality and the way we express ourselves show that. 

So instead of trying out popular diets or relying on an elimination diet alone to find what’s best for you, look into genetic testing to find which foods you will benefit from as well as the foods you should avoid. Besides, having a tailor-made diet is far more exciting than any fad diet. A lifestyle that focuses on feeding your body the best nutrients based on who you are is incredibly personal and comforting.

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