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  • Writer's pictureSinead Mackintosh

Diet Fads

Diet fads have been around for decades, and every so often they get a makeover. The Atkins Diet, Paleo Diet, Intermittent Fasting and Banting, to name a few of the more popular ones. Recently, however, diets have taken a more “personalized” approach. DNA based diets. Companies claim to be able to use your DNA to determine your nutritional needs, such as vitamins and factors that influence your metabolism and cholesterol. This field is termed “nutrigenetics,” and the name is pretty self-explanatory.

Changing your diet based on genetics is not a new concept, and for some people, it is not an option. Certain metabolic disorders such as phenylketonuria, galactosemia, lactose intolerance, and coeliac disease require certain dietary habits. However, more mainstream nutritional changes based on genetics are more complex. Researchers maintain that genetics alone should not dictate diets and should be used in conjunction with additional information (e.g., sex, age, health status, family history, etc.). Personalized diets may contribute to better eating behaviors. They could help alleviate health issues such as “obesity, type 2 diabetes, cardiovascular disease, dementia, musculoskeletal problems and some cancers.”

This sounds great, but it is crucial to remember that any personalized diets should be used to enhance standard dietary advice. Nutrition is complicated, and its effect on long-term health starts in the womb. Therefore, it’s not possible and definitely not wise to take a nutritional element in isolation and test its impact on disease prevention and overall health. Your overall health depends on multiple factors, including your environment, diet, physical activity and genetics. Genetics is not as straightforward as it sounds because genes interact and influence each other in an intricate network.

Researchers are still trying to unravel the network to see what and how specific genes may be involved in nutrition. So, for now, just focus on healthy eating (whole foods and moderation), or if you do need extra help and a set eating plan, contact a dietitian!

Grimladi, K. A. et al. 2017 Proposed guidelines to evaluate scientific validity and evidence for genotype-based dietary advice. Genes Nutr. 12:35.

Görman, U. et al. 2013 Do we know enough? A scientific and ethical analysis of the basis for genetic-based personalized nutrition. Genes Nutr. 8:373-381.

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