By now, you've heard about how DNA testing can reveal your origins and family ancestry, but did you know your DNA can also reveal a lot about what type of diet is most optimal for you?
The scientific progress never stops, and now with the help of genetic analysis, we are getting closer to understanding how to personalize diets, which may help with chronic disease prevention.
Over the years, there have been numerous studies aimed to find solutions to the growing obesity problem in the US.1 And it goes without saying that this issue can negatively impact many aspects of an individual's life like:
- Increasing insurance costs
- Increasing the risks of developing a chronic disease
- Generally lowering the quality of life2
The effectiveness of various weight-loss interventions is mixed and usually shows that dieters most often regain their weight lose.3,4 Consequently, individuals are still searching to find a diet that will not only help them lose weight successfully but keep it off long-term.
Recently, with the growing body of research on personalized nutrition using genetic information, scientists are getting closer to a sustainable solution for weight loss and improvements in health markers.
As opposed to a one-size-fits-all nutrition recommendation, it is likely that to obtain the most benefits, individuals should follow a diet tailored to their genetic makeup, in other words — a DNA diet.
Keto Versus Nutrigenetics
One recent study specifically compared the effects of weight loss and changes in health markers of the popular ketogenic diet versus a low-glycemic index Nutrigenetic diet. This 2020 study conducted over a 24-week dietary period and an 18-month follow-up, aimed to measure the differences in weight loss between both groups throughout both phases.
Its secondary objective was to identify key risk factors, including glucose, total cholesterol, and HDL cholesterol.5 The settings were identical for both groups. Both diets contained approximately 1600 kcal a day, and both groups had a meal plan and nutrition advice from a qualified nutritionist.
All participants also received a recommendation to exercise for 30-45 min per day, five days a week. But before jumping to a conclusion about the effectiveness of the interventions, it is crucial to take a closer look at both diets and understand the difference.
What is Keto Diet?
The keto diet is a very low-carb diet that has gained popularity in recent years. This diet was initially developed to reduce the frequency of seizures in epileptic children, but more recently, it has gone mainstream and is now commonly used for weight loss.6 There are theories about it possibly being useful for other goals such as brain health and blood sugar control, but we need more research to establish if it's genuinely effective.
In contrast to other low-carb diets, the keto diet does not focus on protein but fat. 70 to 90% of calories usually come from fat to force the body to switch to a different energy source. Instead of using glucose as the fuel source, the body now runs on ketone bodies produced by the liver.
In the study, the keto diet group was instructed to consume less than 35 grams of carbohydrates per day, which is roughly equal to 2 slices of bread or one banana. Despite being high-fat, less than 10 percent of all the calories were coming from saturated fats.
What is a DNA Diet?
Generally, this diet contains more personalized, nuanced dietary advice that considers an individual's genetic makeup, appetite, metabolism, blood sugar response, and the formation of fat cells.
It is the opposite of one-size-fits-all recommendations yet still stays within standard nutrition recommendations for health.7 In the study, the low-GI diet group had individualized dietary instruction based on their unique genetic results. Regardless of the genetic differences, all subjects were advised to focus on fruits, vegetables, and whole-grain complex carbohydrates as their primary carbohydrate sources and limit added sugars and saturated fat.
What is The Study Verdict?
The study revealed that in the first 24 weeks, the ketogenic diet caused more weight loss and improvement in health markers, but at the 18-month follow-up, the low-GI nutrigenetic group had more weight loss and health improvements.
This shows that over a more extended period of time, a DNA diet may be more beneficial in treating both obesity and related biomarkers.
The DNA diet being more effective over time is due to the long-term lifestyle changes leading to sustained weight loss and health improvements. Most popular diets aim to provide a quick fix and tend to be less sustainable for long-term maintenance.
The main problem with a ketogenic diet is that it can be challenging to adhere to for some individuals. It is also hard to maintain such a low carbohydrate diet for a long time. A ketogenic diet may also disturb basal metabolic processes leading to adverse reactions when returning to standard nutrition.5 On the contrary, the Nutrigenetic Diet aims to optimize the nutrient content of an individual's daily food intake based on an understanding of an individual's genetic profile.5
Therefore, nutrigenetics may be a tool to help achieve optimal nutrient content on an individual basis. In addition, knowing that diet and lifestyle recommendations are targeted uniquely to the person may increase motivation and compliance with long-term lifestyle changes.
- Ng M, Fleming T, Robinson M, Thomson B, Graetz N, Margono C, et al. Global, regional, and national prevalence of overweight and obesity in children and adults during 1980-2013: A systematic analysis for the Global Burden of Disease Study 2013. Lancet. 2014;384(9945):766–81.
- Adult Obesity Facts. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. https://www.cdc.gov/obesity/data/adult.html. Published February 11, 2021. Accessed May 19, 2021.
- Thom G, Lean M. Is there an optimal diet for weight management and metabolic health? Gastroenterology. 2017;152(7):1739–51.
- Soeliman FA, Azadbakht L. Weight loss maintenance: A review on dietary related strategies. J Res Med Sci. 2014;19:268–75.
- Vranceanu, M., Pickering, C., Filip, L. et al. A comparison of a ketogenic diet with a LowGI/nutrigenetic diet over 6 months for weight loss and 18-month follow-up. BMC Nutr 6, 53 (2020). https://doi.org/10.1186/s40795-020-00370-7
- Northwestern Medicine. Pros and Cons of the Ketogenic Diet. Northwestern Medicine. https://www.nm.org/healthbeat/healthy-tips/nutrition/pros-and-cons-of-ketogenic-diet. Accessed May 20, 2021.
- Healthy diet. World Health Organization. https://www.who.int/news-room/fact-sheets/detail/healthy-diet. Accessed May 20, 2021.