Beating The Lockdown Pounds...Even When Our Genes Seem To Be Working Against Us
We all know friends and family who appear to eat what they like without gaining weight; while for others, it seems to pile on by just glancing at a treat.
The reasons some people stay slim, while others struggle with weight gain when food and drink is readily available are usually complex and many layered but there's no denying, genetics play a role.
If this makes your heart sink, then hold on. Even if our genes seem to be loaded against us, research reveals that the more healthily we eat, the more likely it appears to be that we can kick some of these genetic tendencies into touch.
This was the conclusion from research on nearly 14,000 health care professionals, from a 20-year study carried out in America. Published in 2018 in the British Medical Journal (1), it feels like an appropriate time, when many are battling the 'Lockdown Pounds', to revisit and hold on to the encouraging news that came from the results.
The researchers started by calculating the genetic predisposition to obesity of those taking part. They based these on 77 genetic variants associated with body mass index (BMI). Then, the scientists recorded what the participants ate. This was done every four years with the researchers noting changes in BMI, body weight and food and drink consumption over the 20-year period.
What they discovered was heartening. Sticking with healthy eating patterns (such as the Mediterranean style of eating), reduced the effect of genetic associations with weight gain and this was especially pronounced in people at high genetic risk for obesity.
In other words, consistently eating healthily, helped people to tone down genetic risk to weight gain.
Shedding excess weight and keeping it off, if we live in a society where high calorie food is available; 'cheap' and pushed at us every waking moment of the day and night is never going to be easy and especially so when genetics are stacked against us. However, this 'light at the end of the tunnel' offers hope that soldiering on with a healthy Mediterranean style of eating really can pay off, in both the short and long term.
And the benefits of eating this way do not stop with weight. Basing meals and snacks around vegetables, fruits and wholegrains; nuts, seeds and lean protein like pulses and fish brings with it a host of protective vitamins, minerals, essential fats, super nutrients and fibre. Good intakes of these nutritional components within a Mediterranean style of eating have been linked not just with the chances of better long-term physical health but also mental wellbeing.
These are the kind of hopeful messages most of us could do with more of with right now and they are within our grasp, at our next meal, our next snack and in how we plan both moving forward.
(1) Improving adherence to healthy dietary patterns, genetic risk, and long term weight gain: gene-diet interaction analysis in two prospective cohort studies. Tiange Wang et al. BMJ 2018; 360 doi: https://doi.org/10.1136/bmj.j5644
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