Watching your diet? Millions of us are. With so many conflicting diets and recommendations, many of us go diet hopping, and still don’t get the results we strive for. While we’re trying to figure out what’s best – Paleo, Vegetarian, Vegan, Gluten free, high protein, low carb – we may all be looking in the wrong direction.
While I’m not a great fan of tampering with genes, there are some valuable things to learn from studying them. “Food As Medicine,” an article by Kendall K. Morgan, in Genome, presents another viable approach to diets – genetics.
Genetic research shows evidence that people are so singularly made that they are genetically predisposed to respond uniquely to different foods. And this could explain why some diets work for one person, but not another. Researchers suspect that not everyone responds positively to the same nutrients.
In many countries babies are screened for phenylketonuria (PKU) at birth. People with PKU lack an enzyme that breaks down the amino acid phenylalanine. The absence of this enzyme has genetic origins, and can lead to poor physical development or mental retardation. Limiting phenylalanine from their diets can protect these babies. Phenylalanine is found in foods high in protein, such as milk, dairy products, meat, fish, chicken, eggs, beans, and nuts. Click here for a chart to see how maintaining a low phenylalanine diet would mean eating almost all the foods prohibited by most trendy diets, and avoiding the ones recommended by those diets.
Many people are able to digest dairy products throughout their lives. Others are lactose intolerant, often from early childhood. This is common among people of Asian descent, but among others it’s less clear what the common gene might be. Celiac disease, and intolerance to gluten is another that may have a genetic cause.
Omega-3 Fatty Acids
The ability to digest omega-3 fatty acids may vary for the same reason. People who are poor converters of essential fatty acids might require a supplemental dose of fish oil to their daily diets.
Other Genetic Variants
Other researchers have found one genetic variant that corresponds to normal blood lipid profiles and a lower stroke risk for those affected and who follow a Mediterranean diet. And, yet another study shows that some people become overweight on high-fat dairy foods, while others don’t, depending upon a specific gene variant they carry.
One woman, after being diagnosed with Graves’ disease, an autoimmune disease linked to hyperthyroidism, experienced a common brush-off. Her doctors dismissed her complaints as psychosomatic, or overreaction, because they had no idea what to do. This dismissal is more common that you’d think. You’re doctor says, or even hints that you problems are imaginary, shop around for a doctor who has more knowledge about less common, more complex syndromes. Often, unidentified clusters of symptoms are not a single disease, as in this woman’s case.
Eventually, this woman received a diagnosis that included multiple autoimmune diseases. Believing that inflammation was at the root of her problem, she changed to an elimination diet called The Plan by dietitian Lyn-Genet Recitas. Among the foods she eliminated and felt notably better afterward were asparagus, salmon and broccoli ~ foods highly recommended on most diets’ “good to eat” lists.
She began to taper off her IVIG infusions, and eventually eliminated all medications. Her diet, which also includes juicing, includes 90 percent fruits and vegetables, white fish and grass-fed beef, but no dairy or salmon.
Who Does Genetic Testing
If you’ve had trouble succeeding with diets that are touted as the newest and best, whether to lose weight or improve health, consider your genetic makeup. There is a panel of seven genes that a dietitian could test for. While this line of research is still in its early stages, knowing that your genetic makeup might reveal what works and doesn’t work for you, might give you an edge.
You can have genetic testing done by private companies like the Canadian Nutrigenomix. Bear in mind that a private company that sells nutrient products may not give the most objective guidance. Many nutrigenomics companies have come and gone after the completion of the Human Genome Project, suggesting that this budding science isn’t quite ready for the commercial market.
Keep an eye on genetic research regarding food sensitivities. It may provide a wealth of information that you can use to adjust your food choices. I’m hoping it will reveal any flaws in genetically modified foods while they’re at it. This may be the research that exposes genetically modified foods fail as nutrients.
Genome: Winter 2014: http://genomemag.com/food-as-medicine/
National Health Research Institutes and Asia Pacific Clinical Nutrition Society: http://apjcn.nhri.org.tw/server/info/books-phds/books/foodfacts/html/data/data2e.html
University of Washington: Cristine M. Trahms Program for Phenylketonuria http://depts.washington.edu/pku/about/diet.html
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