Kitchen science  July 2010

The Perfect Diet? Is a Question of DNA

To keep in shape, or even to loose weight, one has to consider their genes. According to recently published American studies, confirmed by Italian geneticist Paolo Gasparini, our genes are the key to understanding the best diet for our body’s nutritional needs.

Paolo Gasparini

The Italian geneticist Paolo Gasparini

Everyone knows that the most effective diets are tailor made. What we didn’t know is that our genes are the best tailors. Our DNA is the key to understanding what diet is best for each one of us, both for staying healthy and for loosing weight.

According to a recent American study, presented by the American Heart Association, genetic testing allows for doctors to design the most appropriate diet for each patient – to reduce the risks of cardiovascular disease to loosing weight. Researchers at Stanford University have come to the same conclusion: a diet based on one’s genetic makeup is three times more likely to keep a person in shape than one that doesn’t take DNA into consideration.

Read More: The Benefits of Genetics

A new test to find the right diet

In the end, we have all seen that some diet rules work wonders for our friends, but have no effects on others. Why is this? Everyone responds differently to diet and this variability, what makes us unique, is based on our genes.

Proof of this theory is also being provided from within Italy. Paolo Gasparini, head physician at the Genetics Hospital Burlo Garofalo in Trieste, professor of genetic medicine at the Univeristy of Trieste and scientific advisor to g&life, one of the most cutting-edge companies in the Area Science Park of Trieste, has studied the relationship between genes and diet. “When we introduce any type of food, which isn’t anything other than a mix of chemical compounds, to our body, we are activating and inactivating certain metabolism processes,” says professor Gasparini. “All of the processes of digestion and absorption of food are determined by certain genes. If I have a variation of a gene that is more active than someone who doesn’t have the same variation, my metabolism will inevitably be different: there is no doubt that our genes have been selected over time and house a lot of information.”

The study of genes as they relate to food science has developed its own scientific field called nutrigenomics. Food and genes “are studied together with two other elements that influence our food choices: taste and food preferences. ”
Genetics play an important role in this as well: “Although these aspects may seem cultural or social, they have a biological based and impact our health.” By nature, not all of us tend to eat lettuce: more often, we go nuts for junk food, which isn’t the best thing for our physical wellbeing. 


The structure of a molecule and the DNA double helix

“There are people, for example, who perceive bitter more intensely than others. There are some people who do not sense it at all. This distinction causes the two groups of people to eat different foods, which inevitably influence their health. For example, people that are sensitive to bitter, tend not to eat a series of foods like broccoli, radicchio and other bitter vegetables, as well as grapefruit, bitter chocolate, etc.. As a result, they risk having mineral deficiencies and should know that they need to find other sources of vitamins and minerals.” But even people who don’t sense bitter, don’t have it easy: “It is genetically proven that they are less sensible to fats as well and therefore tend to dress their food heavily with sauces and other flavorings.”

To find our healthy weight, we need to read what is written on the “rock” of our genes. However, “a diet can not be based exclusively on DNA because it would be like eating according to one’s horoscope. It is important to combine the nutrigenomic data with the classic evaluation of a nutritionist in order to understand your tastes and food preferences. It is important to look at a person’s lifestyle, how much physical exercise they get, their current diet, as well as their genetic makeup. This is the only way to create a successful personalized diet.”

Professor Gasparini took the DNA test himself. (And for those of you interested, the test was released on the market for an affordable price about six months ago.)
“My test showed that I have a variation of a variation of a gene connected to the production of ghrelin, the hormone that stimulate our appetite, causing me to have a heightened sense of hunger. In a case like mine, it is best to eat five meals a day. Now, when I have my mid-morning or mid-afternoon snack, I no longer feel guilty: I know that it is better for my metabolism.”

Mariagrazia Villa

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“The Perfect Diet? Is a Question of DNA”

  1. Excellent post. Hope to read much more good posts in the future.

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