Why Isn’t Your Diet Working? It’s In Your Genes

MedicalResearch.com Interview with:
“Scale model” by brett jordan is licensed under CC BY 2.0
William Barrington, PhD lead author on the study
Recently graduated PhD student from the Threadgill lab
David Threadgill, PhD
Texas A&M College of Medicine and
College of Veterinary Medicine & Biomedical Sciences, senior author

MedicalResearch.com: What is the background for this study? What are the main findings?

Response: Obesity and diet-induced diseases, such as cardiovascular disease, have reached epidemic proportions. The United States has offered universal dietary recommendations for decades, but they have been largely unsuccessful in reducing diet-induced diseases. These recommendations are largely built upon population-level data, which examines a large number of individuals and determines the average response to a dietary intervention. However, if there is large variation in responses within a population, then population-level data may be inadequate to improve health across genetically diverse individuals.

Our study used four genetically diverse types of mice to examine how one’s genetics interact with diet to influence obesity and risk factors for cardiometabolic disease. The study compared four popular human diets (American, Mediterranean, Japanese, and Maasai/ketogenic). While all mice suffered detrimental effects from the American diet, the severity of disease varied widely across the types of mice. In comparison, no single diet improved health across all strains, but there was one or more diets that improved health in each strain.

MedicalResearch.com: What should readers take away from your report?

Response: The results indicate that genetics can profoundly influence the way individuals respond to diet. Given the genetic and metabolic similarities between mice and humans, it is likely that genetics also strongly influence diet response in people.

Indeed, recent studies indicate that people have widely variable responses to identical dietary interventions. Therefore an individualized, or precision dietetics, approach to dietary recommendations may yield better health outcomes than the traditional one-size-fits-all approach.

MedicalResearch.com: What recommendations do you have for future research as a result of this study?

Response: It is important to identify the genetic factors underlying variation in diet response in people, and develop methods to screen individuals in order to determine which type of diet might improve their health.  

Disclosures: No competing interests

MedicalResearch.com: Thank you for your contribution to the MedicalResearch.com community.


William T. Barrington, Phillip Wulfridge, Ann E. Wells, Carolina Mantilla Rojas, Selene Y. F. Howe, Amie Perry, Kunjie Hua, Michael A. Pellizzon, Kasper D. Hansen, Brynn H. Voy, Brian J. Bennett, Daniel Pomp, Andrew P. Feinberg, David W. Threadgill. Improving Metabolic Health Through Precision Dietetics in Mice. Genetics, 2017; genetics.300536.2017 DOI: 10.1534/genetics.117.300536

Note: Content is Not intended as medical advice. Please consult your health care provider regarding your specific medical condition and questions.

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