genetics dietA recent study published in the journal Genetics has suggested that genetic factors could be behind varying responses to diet and may one day hold the key to more precisely shaping nutrition and weight loss information.

“Dietary advice, whether it comes from the United States government or some other organization, tends to be based on the theory that there is going to be one diet that will help everyone,” says David Threadgill, with the Texas A&M College of Medicine and College of Veterinary Medicine & Biomedical Sciences and senior author of the study.

“In the face of the obesity epidemic, it seems like guidelines haven’t been effective.”

Researchers created diets closely matched with features of common regional diets based in Japan (high in rice starch, soy oils and green tea extracts), Kenya (Ketogenic diet rich in fat and protein) and the Mediterranean (high in olive oil and red wine extracts) and compared these against controls of an American diet (heavy in fats and refined carbohydrates) and a control diet of balanced store bought food.

Over a six-month period, the study assessed the impact of these diets on the health and weight of four different genetic mouse lines. As expected, the American diet caused negative health effects across all strains but more surprising was the differences found in the ‘healthier’ diet groups. In the Japanese diet, one strain responded negatively to the Japanese diet, showing clear signs of liver damage and 2 groups fed the Kenyan Maasai diet displayed higher levels of cholesterol, obesity or lethargy.

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William Barrington, lead author of the paper commented that The goal going into this study was to find the optimal diet, but really what we’re finding is that it depends very much on the genetics of the individual and there isn’t one diet that is best for everyone.”

Dr. Barrington suggested that variations may be the result of the foods eaten by our ancestors which could open the door to tailored genetic tests in the future.

“One day, we’d love to develop a genetic test that could tell each person the best diet for their own genetic makeup. There might be a geographical difference based on what your ancestors ate, but we just don’t know enough to say for sure yet.”