Not everyone responds to food the same way. A growing body of research indicates that eating a diet suited to your individual genetics is the best approach for losing weight, preventing age-related disease, improving athletic performance, and achieving other health and wellness goals.

For some people, high-fat diets are associated with numerous health conditions, including obesity and type 2 diabetes. However, this association may be present only in people who carry a certain genetic variant. Not only does this variant determine if you are more likely to gain weight on a high-fat diet, it may also influence which type of dietary fat provides increased benefits for your body.

The PPAR genes

Food provides us with energy. When we overeat, excess food is converted into fat, which is stored in the body, leading to weight gain. When it’s needed, this stored fat can be used for energy. Three genes in the human body control the processes related to energy metabolism and energy storage: PPARG, PPARA, and PPARD. These genes are also involved in the growth of fat tissue and bone tissue. The interaction of the PPAR genes plays an important role in regulating energy storage and lipogenesis (fat synthesis) in the human body. This interaction is also affected by environmental factors such as diet, exercise, and medication.

In particular, the PPARG gene produces a protein known as PPARγ, which triggers fat storage. A variant in this gene can make carriers more sensitive to dietary fat, affecting their BMI and increasing the risk of type 2 diabetes.

PPARG variants

In a 2012 study, more than 4600 people were genotyped for PPARG variants and were followed for nine years to determine the effects of their diet on BMI and insulin resistance.

A certain PPARG variant, known as Pro, which is high among Africans and Asians, is associated with an increased risk of obesity and type 2 diabetes. Another variant, referred to as Ala, leads to impaired function in the genes that convert food into fat, leading to a reduced risk of obesity and diabetes, even in the presence of a high-fat diet. People with the Ala variant are less likely to gain weight, even when eating the same diet as people with the Pro variant. However, they may lose weight more slowly. Among Ala carriers, a higher intake of monounsaturated fat is associated with a lower BMI.

People with two copies of the Pro variant (one from each parent) are more likely to gain weight on a high-fat diet. An increase in fat intake was also associated with an increased risk of diabetes among people with 2 copies of the Pro variant. To avoid weight gain, these individuals should get most of their dietary fat from polyunsaturated fat, and monitor or reduce their intake of saturated fat. For Pro/Pro carries, a lower intake of saturated fat typically corresponds to a lower BMI.

What does this mean for your diet?

Knowing your individual genotype can help you determine your ideal diet, whether your goal is to lose weight, prevent disease, or increase your overall wellness. Everyone needs some amount of dietary fat. Fats are necessary for proper organ function, help prevent heart disease, aid in muscle movement, and help reduce inflammation. Your individual genetic blueprint can reveal if you derive increased benefits from polyunsaturated fats or monounsaturated fats. Monounsaturated fats are found in foods such as olives and olive oil, avocados, and nuts, including macadamia nuts, pecans, almonds, pistachios, and cashews.

Polyunsaturated fats, which include omega-3 and omega-6, are found in walnuts, sunflower seeds, flax seeds, and fish such as salmon, tuna, mackerel, and herring.

If your genotype reveals that you should limit saturated fats, you will likely want to reduce your intake of meat, poultry, butter, cheese, and other dairy products.

No matter what your genotype, you should avoid trans fats, which have been shown to increase the risk of heart disease. Trans fats are created in a process in which hydrogen is added to liquid oils to make them more self stable. These are often found in processed foods and baked foods, and are often listed on food labels as partially hydrogenated oils.

You can discover if you have a PPARD variant by ordering your genetic report from Vivaliti DNA. Your 49-page report reveals your ideal matching diet, risks of nutritional deficiencies, most beneficial exercises, and other information that can help you reach your health and fitness goals. Order your genetic test now!