Who we are may be as important as what we eat when it comes to weight control. According to new research from the Texas A&M College of Medicine and College of Veterinary Medicine & Biomedical Sciences, genetics may influence how our bodies respond to a particular diet.
Research in animal models with different genetics found that one diet really doesn't fit all, and what works for some may not be best for others.
The researchers used four different groups of animal models to look at how five diets affect health over a six-month period. The genetic differences within each group were almost non-existent, while the genetics between any two of the groups would translate to roughly the same as those of two unrelated people. The researchers chose the four test diets to mirror those eaten by people:
- American-style diet (higher in fat and refined carbs, especially corn)
- Mediterranean (with wheat and red wine extract)
- Japanese (with rice and green tea extract)
- Ketogenic, or Atkins-like (high in fat and protein with very few carbs).
- The fifth diet was the control group who ate standard commercial chow.
Not all animals did well on “healthy” diets
Although some so-called healthy diets did work well for most animals, one of the four genetic types did very poorly when eating the Japanese-like diet; it was associated with increased fat in the liver and signs of liver damage.
A similar thing happened with the Atkins-like diet: two genetic types did well, and two did very badly. One became very obese, with fatty livers and high cholesterol. The other had a reduction in activity level and more body fat, but still remained lean. (This equates to what is called 'skinny-fat' in humans, in which someone looks to be a healthy weight but actually has a high percentage of body fat.)
The research team measured physical signs, especially evidence of metabolic syndrome, which is a collection of signs of obesity-related problems, including high blood pressure and cholesterol, fatty liver and elevated blood sugar. They also studied any behavioral differences, from how much they moved around to how much they ate.
Too get the diets as close to popular human diets as possible, the researchers matched fibre content and bioactive compounds thought to be important in disease.
Perhaps as could be expected, the animal models tended not to do great on the American-style diet. A couple of the strains became very obese and had signs of metabolic syndrome.
With the Mediterranean diet, there was a mix of effects. Some groups were healthy, while others experienced weight gain, although it was less severe than in the American diet.
These findings suggest that a diet that makes one individual lean and healthy may have the opposite effect on another.
The researchers found that the optimal diet but depends very much on genetics and there isn't one diet that was bets for all animal models.
Future work will focus on determining which genes are involved in the response to the diets.
Source: Genetics, December 4, 2017
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