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March 04, 2018 2 min read

Most people presume obesity is a genetic predisposition. They see it as something beyond their control. If their parents were obese, then, “it’s in their genes”, and there’s not much they can do about it. According to new research out of Tulane University and Harvard University stemming from a 20-year study, by adhering to a healthier diet such as the Alternate Healthy Eating Index 2010 (AHEI-2010) and the Dietary Approach to Stop Hypertension (DASH) they might be wrong. The research has found regardless of genetic predisposition to obesity, an individual can decrease their body max index (BMI) and body weight. Additionally, and more importantly for those genetically predisposed to obesity, they found a greater ability to lower BMI and lose weight within this population over those with lower genetic risk. In short, the research found that those genetically predisposed to obesity were more likely to get better results in reducing their BMI and body weight by improving their diet.

Over the course of this 20-year study, the research team looked at several different diets and found the AHEI-2010 and DASH to be the most impactful. They share a lot of commonalities, with the AHEI-2010, encouraging increasing one’s intake of vegetables (excluding potatoes), fruits, whole grains, nuts and legumes, long chain fatty acids, and polyunsaturated fats. It recommends a moderate intake of alcohol and a low intake of artificially sweetened drinks and fruit juices, red and processed meats, trans fat and sodium. The DASH diet is similar, in that it encourages a higher intake of vegetables, fruits, nuts and legumes, whole grains, and differently, low fat dairy products, while reducing the intake of artificially sweetened drinks, red and processed meats, and sodium.

However, this research study only looked at the impact of diet and did not take into consideration increasing one’s activity levels through exercise. So, the combination of the two, a healthier diet while becoming more physically active, for someone genetically predisposed to obesity could have an even greater impact on reducing their BMI and body weight.

Journal Reference:

Tiange Wang, Yoriko Heianza, Dianjianyi Sun, Tao Huang, Wenjie Ma, Eric B Rimm, JoAnn E Manson, Frank B Hu, Walter C Willett, Lu Qi. Improving adherence to healthy dietary patterns, genetic risk, and long term weight gain: gene-diet interaction analysis in two prospective cohort studies. BMJ, 2018; j5644 DOI: 10.1136/bmj.j5644

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