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Drink your tea
If I've said it once, I've said it a thousand times: "Instead of soda, drink water, coffee, or tea." A recent study suggests that if you are female and the carrier of a certain gene, you might decide that tea is a better choice.

Eggs' effect on Alzheimer's
In addition to increasing your risk of heart disease, poor cholesterol scores have been linked to a greater risk of developing dementia and the formation of the plaques that characterize Alzheimer's Disease. For decades eggs, with their relatively high levels of cholesterol, were considered foods to avoid for those with poor cholesterol scores. More recently, however, we have learned that for the vast majority of people the cholesterol you consume has far less effect on your cholesterol scores than the amount of saturated fat in your diet.

Exercise Trumps Heredity
Studying identical twins is very important because they help scientists separate what has a genetic cause and what is caused by a person's environment or their lifestyle. Since their genes are the same, generally speaking health differences between the two individuals in a set of identical twins can be traced to lifestyle or environmental factors.


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Genetically-based weight loss plans: not yet

an ethnically diverse group of people dining together outdoors

Recent advances in genetic engineering and genetically-customized treatments for various conditions are very exciting, with promising research being done in the fields of cancer and red blood cell disorders, among others.

With obesity such a significant health issue, there has also been research directed toward the interaction of genotype (the genetic makeup of an individual) and weight loss: there is research to suggest that specific genotypes may make one more easily lose weight with a low-carbohydrate diet, for example, or with a low-fat diet.

Wouldn't it be fantastic to know that your personal genetics predisposed you to be more likely to lose weight with a specific type of diet? Building on a previous, retrospective study that identified a low-fat-diet genotype (those predisposed to lose more weight on a low-fat diet) and a low-carbohydrate genotype (those predisposed to lose more weight on a low-carbohydrate diet), a research team at Stanford University in California designed a weight loss study to examine those genotypes prospectively ( JAMA. 2018;319(7):667-679. doi:10.1001/jama.2018.0245).

That is, rather than identifying an individual's genotype after weight loss, the authors in this study recruited individuals to participate in their weight-loss study and identified the individual's genetic propensity before randomly assigning them to a low-carbohydrate or low-fat diet.

The 481 men and women, overweight or obese but otherwise generally healthy, who completed the 12-month study were randomly assigned, regardless of their determined genotype, to either a low-fat or low-carbohydrate diet and were supported with weekly group dietary counseling sessions weekly for the first 8 weeks, then every other week for the next 2 months, then every 3 weeks until the 6th month of the study, then monthly until the end of the study (at 12 months).

The participants' diets emphasized high-quality foods and beverages, maximizing vegetable intake, minimizing added sugars and refined flours, and focusing on foods that were "minimally processed, nutrient dense, and prepared at home whenever possible." They were not instructed to cut their caloric intake by any specific amount, but were encouraged to meet physical activity recommendations of 30 minutes per day.

At months 3, 6, and 12 the participants responded to dietary questionnaires (to make sure they were sticking to their assigned diets) and underwent blood and insulin tolerance tests along with having their weight and waist circumferences measured.

The results were not exciting. Not only was there no statistically significant difference between the amount of weight lost on a low-fat versus low-carb diet, within the two groups the participants' genotype (low-fat or low-carb) made no statistical difference in how much weight they lost: for example, those with a genotype considered to be more conducive to losing weight on a low-fat diet lost no more weight on a low-fat diet than they did on a low-carb diet (and vice versa).

What this means for you

It's certainly possible that at some point in the future we may know more about which type of diet will work better for you, genetically speaking. That time is not now. Until then, your best bet is to focus on consuming high-quality calories through a diet that we know people can stick with for the long term: a Mediterranean-style diet.

First posted: February 28 2018