Over the past few decades, researchers have shown that an individual’s
genetic makeup can play a big role in his or her propensity to gain weight and keep it on. For instance, one person may have a gene that makes him more efficient at converting food calories into body fat, while someone lacking this gene can apparently eat as much as she wants without packing on a single pound. Maddening for some, to be sure. But now it seems that dietary choices may have the power to override certain genes associated with body weight.

A watershed investigation in The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition found that a higher-quality diet—as measured by how people scored on the Alternative Healthy Eating Index 2010 (AHEI-2010), the Alternative Mediterranean Diet score (AMED) and the Dietary Approach to Stop Hypertension (DASH) diet score—was able to weaken a genetic predisposition to being chubby. So, a diet replete with nutrient-dense whole foods may be able to modify gene expression (epigenetics) in favor of promoting weight loss and keeping trim. This means people can’t always blame their genes when their jeans feel too snug.

Matthew Kadey, MS, RD

Matthew Kadey, MS, RD, is a James Beard Award–winning food journalist, dietitian and author of the cookbook Rocket Fuel: Power-Packed Food for Sport + Adventure (VeloPress 2016). He has written for dozens of magazines, including Runner’s World, Men’s Health, Shape, Men’s Fitness and Muscle and Fitness.

Leave a Comment





When you buy something using the retail links in our content, we may earn a small commission. IDEA Health and Fitness Association does not accept money for editorial reviews. Read more about our Terms & Conditions and our Privacy Policy.