Death by buffet
A few months ago, I was at a seminar where one of the speakers was discussing his own genetics and how he has overcome his “faulty” genes to recover his previously poor health.
He pointed out that there aren’t really good or bad genes – we all have adaptations that made sense perhaps in a different context but with a modern lifestyle, maybe not so much. One of these is the MC4R variation (also known as the “death by buffet” gene) which has been associated with appetite regulation and increased BMI (weight).
If you are living a typical modern lifestyle and eating a typical Western diet, then this might be deemed a “bad” gene. But in the context of a hunter/gatherer with a sporadic food supply, the tendency to binge when food is available would not be a bad thing – it would be considered a “good” gene.
Your genes are NOT your destiny
DNA is a molecular code containing the "recipes" that tell your body how to make proteins - the molecular workhorses that do the heavy lifting inside your cells. Your unique DNA code shapes who you are and how you grow. A section of DNA that contains a complete recipe for a particular protein is known as a gene.
But, not all of your genes are read all of the time. Different genes may be 'expressed' (turned on) or 'silent' (turned off).
Sure, genes which code for things like your eye colour or hair colour, are not going to change, but what about the genes which tell your body how to run its various biochemical pathways and how to replicate your cells? These genes must be 'expressing' – that is turned 'on'. Diet and lifestyle factors can impact the expression of these genes greatly. This is known as “epigenetic's”.
There is a saying now; “Genes load the gun, environment pulls the trigger”. That basically means that being born with particular genes does not necessarily dictate your health journey. Environment affects your gene expression and therefore how your body functions, for better or worse
What is Nutrigenomics?
Have YOU thought about genetic testing (such as 23andMe) – but have been put off because you are too afraid to find out what the test will tell you? Or have you already done a test but have no idea what to do with all the data that you may have been given?
Nutrigenomics is a relatively new field in which the complex science of nutrition marries up with genetic testing to create a truly personalised diet and lifestyle plan for you. This is not about telling you that you have a gene which means you will get a particular disease no matter what. It’s about arming yourself with the knowledge of your body’s own special nutritional needs and predispositions.
Things you can learn for nutrigenomic testing:
- your ability to process fats and sugars
- predisposition to food intolerances
- your requirement for certain vitamins and minerals
- how susceptible you might be to caffeine and salt
- an increased need for antioxidants
- your tendency towards inflammation.
These can all in turn affect how well you manage your weight and your predisposition to mood issues, cardiovascular issues, diabetes, osteoporosis, for instance. So knowing what your own personal nutritional requirements are can really help you to keep yourself in good health.
You are not doomed to death by buffet!
And if you have the MC4R variation, don’t just give in and blame your genes. Knowledge is power and you can adjust your diet and develop different eating strategies so you are not doomed!
Nutritionist Resource is not responsible for the articles published by members. The views expressed are those of the member who wrote the article.
About Sharon Strahan
Sharon Strahan BSc Nutr Med BSc (hons) Dietetics mBANT CNHC mIFM NgC.
Sharon is a registered nutritional therapist and health coach who works with marvellous mid-lifers who are finding that their physical health isn’t quite what it once was.
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