Do you ever wonder why some people seem to thrive on a diet, but another person gets no benefits? Or why some people can lose weight on a particular type of diet and others don’t? The reason is that humans are individuals are unique, with their own genetic makeup. Studies show genes play a role in how individuals respond to different weight loss diets. Current research shows that genes may influence as much as 70% of the response to a diet. Why do genes matter?
- Genetic factors can influence the way you process food and convert it into energy
- Your genes can affect your taste buds and thus the foods that appeal to you.
- Your genes can cause your body to react differently to certain foods. Some people have food allergies or sensitivities.
- Genetic factors may also determine how much food you eat for a given meal or snack, as well as how full you feel after eating it.
Although genes affect the response to various diets, the idea that blood type impacts what you should eat is more dubious.
There Is No “One Size Fits All” Weight Loss Diet
The truth is, there’s no such thing as the best diet for everyone. A diet can help you start a healthier lifestyle, but it won’t make all your health problems disappear overnight or lead to dramatic weight loss. If you’re looking for an easy answer, there isn’t one–and if someone tells you differently, find out if they’re trying to sell your something.
Several eating approaches can help with weight loss. Low carbohydrate diets, vegetarian diets, and unprocessed diets can all make it easier to lose weight. But individual diets work better for different people depending on their personal preferences and lifestyle–as well as other factors like age, gender, and medical history.
One person might succeed with a high-protein, low-carbohydrate plan while another may prefer veganism or vegetarianism, neither approach is necessarily better than any other. However, one may better fit into their lifestyle. Studies show you can lose weight with any of these approaches and the difference in weight loss between these approaches isn’t significant.
Your Gut Microbiome May Affect How You Respond to a Diet
Your gut microbiome is the population of bacteria that lives in your intestines. It’s made up of an estimated 30 trillion cells and includes hundreds of thousands of distinct species that live together in an ecosystem.
The diversity of this community is important. The microbes that live in your gut help you digest food and harvest energy from it. They also regulate immune function, alter hormones that affect hunger and satiety, and produce vitamins you need to survive (like vitamin K). They also help your body better absorb nutrients. Your gut microbes are influenced by and respond to what you eat. Eating fiber, for example, will encourage the growth of bacteria that produce butyrate, an anti-inflammatory fatty acid that’s good for gut health.
Therefore, it is a two-way street. Researchers are just beginning to understand how this dynamic relationship works and how important it is to your health. But one thing is clear. Your gut microbiome affects how you respond to various diets.
There Isn’t a One-Size-Fits-All Approach to Diet and Weight Loss
No two people are exactly alike. If a diet were a one-size-fits-all solution, then everyone disciplined enough to follow that diet would be lean and healthy. But that’s not the case because people are unique in their lifestyle and genetics.
Some people can eat all the junk food they want and never gain weight, while others must count calories to stay at a healthy weight. (but not necessarily healthy) Why? Because of genetics and factors like the gut microbiome. Humans are not homogeneous. For example, some people have food allergies, while others can eat what they want without fear of their immune system overreacting.
There Are Some Generalities about Diets Though
Despite the variation in response to diets, it’s almost universal that a diet made up of ultra-processed foods and high in sugar and unhealthy fats isn’t healthy. The Western diet, which contains trans fats, refined carbs, and added sugar, is linked to obesity, heart disease, cancer, diabetes, and other chronic health conditions. So, though there are no one-size-fits-all diets, focusing on whole, unprocessed foods most of the time is a smart strategy. Most fad diets restrict many foods and increase the risk of nutritional deficiencies.
One approach to diet that has the backing of science is a Mediterranean eating plan. This way of eating focuses on vegetables, fruits, legumes, whole grains, fish and seafood, nuts, and healthy oils such as olive oil and canola oil. It also limits red meat consumption to a few times per month. Studies show it’s healthy for weight control.
Beyond weight control, the Mediterranean diet is associated with lower levels of inflammation. It’s also linked to a happier mood since it encourages the consumption of foods high in omega-3 fatty acids, such as oily fish and nuts. Although it’s difficult to say whether it’s the “best” diet, it has data to support its benefits.
A diet that is healthy for one person might not be right for another. The ideal diet depends on a variety of factors, including genetics, health status, and cultural preferences. Additionally, the best eating pattern for you could change over time as your body changes with and preferences evolve.
If you’re trying to lose weight or improve your health, experiment with different approaches and pinpoint what works best for you. But make sure your approach includes a variety of nutrient-dense foods and is sustainable. Unless it’s sustainable, you won’t be consistent with it.
Don’t buy into the hype that a certain way of eating works for everyone. There’s a growing movement toward individualized nutrition based on the idea that there’s more than one way to build a healthy diet. Keep that in mind when planning what you eat. What may be right for you might not work for someone else. However, eliminating junk food works for everyone!
- “5 Studies on the Mediterranean Diet — Does it Work?.” 16 Mar. 2020, healthline.com/nutrition/5-studies-on-the-mediterranean-diet.
- Davis C, Bryan J, Hodgson J, Murphy K. Definition of the Mediterranean Diet; a Literature Review. Nutrients. 2015 Nov 5;7(11):9139-53. doi: 10.3390/nu7115459. PMID: 26556369; PMCID: PMC4663587.
- “The Gut-Brain Connection: How it Works and The Role of Nutrition.” healthline.com/nutrition/gut-brain-connection.
- National Research Council (US) Committee on Diet and Health. Diet and Health: Implications for Reducing Chronic Disease Risk. Washington (DC): National Academies Press (US); 1989. 4, Genetics and Nutrition. Available from: ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/books/NBK218767/
- Esposito K, Kastorini CM, Panagiotakos DB, Giugliano D. Mediterranean diet and weight loss: meta-analysis of randomized controlled trials. Metab Syndr Relat Disord. 2011 Feb;9(1):1-12. doi: 10.1089/met.2010.0031. Epub 2010 Oct 25. PMID: 20973675.