Gene diet: can a DNA analysis help dieters lose weight?

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The gene diet, also called the DNA diet, uses metabolic analysis to help people lose weight. From a saliva sample, dieters are allocated to one of 4 meta types, each of which is said to indicate how well their body metabolises fat, protein and carbohydrates.

Nutrigenetics

The gene diet forms part of the new field of nutrigenetics which studies the relationship between nutrition and genetics. In particular, it deals with the question of how nutrition-related diseases are influenced by genes.

The basis of the gene diet is a saliva sample. This enables nutritionists to study a person’s metabolic genes and their interaction with each other, with the aim of drawing conclusions on the individual’s particular genetic predisposition. In other words: how much energy the body wins from fat, protein and carbohydrates. This information forms the basis for the 4 meta-types.

Meta-types

  • Meta-type alpha (α) metabolises protein-rich food best. This type should reduce the proportion of carbohydrate-rich and fatty foods in their diet.
  • Meta-type beta (β) metabolises fats as well as proteins well. This type should therefore follow a low-carbohydrate diet.
  • Meta-type gamma (γ) metabolises carbohydrates particularly well. This type should reduce the proportion of protein- and fat-rich foods they eat.
  • Meta-type delta (δ) is equally good at metabolising carbohydrates and fats. This type should reduce the proportion of protein-rich foods they consume.

Besides enabling a personalised nutrition plan to be drawn up, the meta-types are also said to enable dieters to discover which kind of exercise works best for them. Each meta-type is allocated a form of exercise – either endurance or speed – that leads to the highest possible calorie consumption.

Does the gene diet really work?

The gene diet can help people to lose weight – because, in the end, it's their individual motivation level that determines their success or failure. People often find it easier to change their eating habits if they know that the recommendations apply to them personally, as is the case with the gene diet.

It seems irrelevant whether the advice is based on gene analysis or on other data such as blood values or previous eating habits. Therefore: if you prefer to spend less, you can just as easily adopt other concepts.

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What the science says

The scientific principles on the subject are also clear: so far no connection between genetic predisposition and weight change has been proven. In addition, such gene tests are limited to only a few genes and are extremely expensive.

For genetic tests like these, the GfH estimates the potential risks of misinterpretation or over-interpretation for clients to be much higher than the claimed benefit.
The German Society of Human Genetics (GfH)

If the results aren't correctly interpreted, a nutrient deficiency might arise, for example. Anyone particularly eager to try the gene diet should therefore consult a nutrition physician too. One thing is sure: those who want to reduce their weight healthily and sustainably rarely manage this with a fad diet - the preferable choice is a long-term change in eating habits.

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