How Your Genetics Influence What Foods Make You Gain Weight

Niha Zubair, Arivale Clinical Research Scientist, PhD
Niha Zubair
Arivale Clinical Research Scientist, PhD

There’s no shortage of trendy diets, each claiming to have unlocked the secret to maintaining optimal weight and health. With all the noise out there, it’s difficult to decipher what’s fact, what’s fiction, and most importantly, what’s right for you.

Though each diet has its own particular formula, we find it’s easiest to differentiate them in terms of how they distribute macronutrients (i.e. the balance of dietary fats, carbohydrates, and protein). Take these popular diets for example. Ketogenic is almost entirely fat, with some protein and extremely small amounts of carbohydrates. Atkins favors protein and fat, and limits carbohydrates. Mediterranean emphasizes complex carbohydrates, with lots of lean protein and a modest amount of healthy fats.

A consistent pitfall with trendy diets is they’re designed to be one-size-fits-all. Each diet wants you to buy into their macronutrient (and micronutrient) formula. But alas, our bodies are not one-size-fits-all. In fact, our genetics have a lot to say about what macronutrients could make us gain weight.

Genetics, Macronutrients, and Your Weight

Your genetics can impact how your body responds to certain macronutrients, and knowing where you land may help you play to your genetic strengths—or sidestep some of your inherited challenges—when trying to lose weight.

Let’s explore your genetics could impact your predisposition for weight gain from dietary fats, saturated fats, and carbohydrates.

Weight Gain from Fats

In recent years, high-fat diets like the aforementioned ketogenic and Atkins diets have gained popularity. While these diets have some interesting pros and cons, it cannot be ignored that, genetically, many people are predisposed to increased weight gain from high amounts of fat in the diet. Yes, even healthy fats like your beloved avocados and nut butters.

If you’re predisposed to weight gain from fats, restructuring your distribution of macronutrients to cut back on fat could help you lose weight. In contrast, if you have a decreased predisposition, shrinking your portion of healthy fats might not have much of an impact on your weight.

Weight Gain from Saturated Fats

Foods high in saturated fats, like coconut oil and clarified butter, are also having their 15-minutes of wellness fame. Even so, there’s still a lot of controversy around whether saturated fats are beneficial or just plain harmful.

Putting questions around saturated fat and cardiovascular disease for another time, when it comes to weight, there are several genetic variants that could put you at increased risk for weight gain from saturated fats—and they’re fairly common.

In fact, a whopping 68 percent of Arivale Members have at least one of the genotypes predisposing them to increased gain weight from saturated fats.

Knowing how saturated fats affect your body relative to other non-saturated fats could be helpful deciding both how much and what kind of fat to incorporate into your diet if you are working on weight loss. 

Weight Gain from Carbohydrates

While cutting carbs is an increasingly popular dieting practice, genetically speaking, there are several common variants that point to decreased weight gain from carbohydrates. In contrast, there isn’t strong scientific evidence at this time for genetic variants that increase the likelihood of weight gain from carbohydrates.

How could this play out? If you genetically have a decreased predisposition for weight gain from carbohydrates but were more sensitive to say, dietary fats, it could be beneficial to redistribute your macronutrients so that you get a higher percentage of your calories from carbohydrates.

Before we get too carried away, let’s make one thing clear. These carbohydrates should be complex carbohydrates like whole grains, fruits, legumes, and starchy vegetables. Avoiding sugary, simple carbohydrates like soft drinks, juice, desserts, white bread, and white pasta is almost always a good idea, regardless of your genetics.

Using Genetics for Weight Loss

No diet is one size fits all. Knowing how your body responds to certain macronutrients could be key to finding a weight loss that works for you.

Interestingly enough, your genetics can also impact how you well you taste sweet and bitter flavors (which can impact how much you like or dislike those weight-loss friendly vegetables), how important exercise is for maintaining weight, and even your predisposition for a high or low Body Mass Index.

Learn more about how genetics can help you build a personalized weight loss plan.

Using Genetics for Weight Loss

References


 

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