It seems like every week there’s a new diet that guarantees weight loss and good health. The Mediterranean diet, or the low carb diet, the Japanese diet are just a few of the latest fads. Now, a new study has found that your genes can play a big role in determining which diet works for you.
Researchers, using specially bred mice, tested different fad diets to see which ones worked, which ones didn’t, and whether a particular diet resulted in poor health.
They used four specially bred mouse strains with genetics representative of the general population.
Investigators discovered some diets resulted in weight loss for some of the mice but did nothing, or worsened the health, of other rodents.
“We’ve largely viewed diets the same way for the last hundred years, assuming that there’s one optimal diet. And what we’re finding is that the impact of a diet is depending on the genetics of an individual eating the diet,” said geneticist William Barrington of North Carolina State University who helped conduct the research.
"And so when your friend tells you, “I’ve tried this great diet. It’s been great for me. You have to try this,” it may have a different effect for you.”
For six months, each of the identical mouse strains received a particular diet: one strain was fed a Western diet high in fat, another the much-hailed, Mediterranean diet, another got a Japanese diet heavy in rice and green tea, and the last group received a low-carb, high fat diet known as ketogenic.
A control group of mice ate a standard diet of chow for comparison.
In all the cases, the rodents were allowed to eat as much as they wanted as researchers kept track of how much they consumed and their general health, including signs of pre-diabetes, including obesity and fatty liver disease.
What researchers found surprised them. One strain of mouse, did poorly on the Western diet while it had little or no effect on other mouse strains.
“There were certain mice that we tested that whatever they ate, it really didn’t change their health status... They were slightly obese no matter what diet they were on,” said Barrington. "So, in some cases it seems that the impact of a diet isn’t very strong in some individuals.”
Barrington noted it may some day be possible to pair a particular diet to certain individuals for a successful result.
“These findings really urge us to determine what are the genetic factors underlying diet response, and how can we predict which individuals are going to respond best to different diet styles,” he said.
It’s a concept called precision nutrition, suggesting that one day doctors will be able to use a genetics test to determine whether what you eat results in weight loss and good health.
The findings were presented at the Genetics Society of America.