Is diet and the effects of a diet, largely genetic?

Answered on September 12, 2014
Created June 11, 2012 at 12:47 AM

A helpful paleohacker (amerindian) on another thread, pointed me to the study summarised in this blog:


Some people overmetabolise plant omegas, some undermetabolise Two genotypes. It would seem to be genetic.

Gluten intolerance is at least partly genetic. I would guess casien and lactose can be partyl genetic.

If one belonged to the plant omega undermetabolisers, one might mostly avoid the inflammatory effects of too much omega 6 (although you may still get a little too much from grain fed food) - and if one did avoid the inflammatory effects, your heart and digestive system might get off okay - you may also avoid leaky gut, and thus have less problems with anti-nutrients. More so if you eat lots of fish too.

I guess what I am asking here, is the diet you are suited to variable, and based on genetic heritage? And are the minority of people who do okay on food pyramid, veganism or sad, actually more genetically adapted to it?

Is the diet we are suited to, entirely genetic?

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on June 11, 2012
at 02:52 AM

Well in a sense, the effect of diet is primarily genetic. Genetics is what makes humans different than Western Gorillas and I'm assuming most people probably wouldn't do as well as Gorillas do on a diet of mostly fibrous plant matter. But even with respect to the human species is genetics important in determining response to diet? Absolutely.

Humans are one of the very few species of animal that have come to live on every continent except Antarctica (I believe their are five, but don't quote me on that). However, unlike most of those species, we came inhabit every corner of every continent. We carved out a niche in every type environment; we lived on plains, marshes, mountains, islands, in deserts, jungles, tundra, pretty much everywhere.

With each different environment came different selective pressure, slowly changing those who lived there. Diet varied heavily in each region, from plant based to animal based. Low carb and high carb. Some were heavily fish eaters, heavy ruminant eaters, heavy starch eaters, heavy fruit eaters, and so on. But beyond just food, environment shaped evolution (bacteria, weather, living conditions, etc.).

So what did all this result in? Important genetic variation among the general population that should be considered factors when discussing diet. Things like:

lactose tolerance, alcohol tolerance, variable numbers of the AMY1 gene (which affects starch digestion ability), apolipoprotein polymorphisms (e.g. ApoE4, ApoA-1 Milano, both which likely influence how diet affects heart disease), the hemochromatosis mutations (which of course affect iron metabolism), the many "obesity" genes, hereditary fructose malabsorption (which negatively affects fructose absorption, of course), familial hypercholesterolemia, the PCSK9 gene (which affects heart disease risk), the HLA locus (which plays a role in autoimmune diseases like celiac disease), blood type (which some evidence suggests may influence resistance to a few bacteria) and the list goes on and on and on.

So yes, response to diet is hugely affected by genes. But it goes beyond that. Other factors affecting response to diet include a number of things like current health conditions, lifestyle, bacterial status, epigenetics, and gene expression.

You asked "are the minority of people who do okay on food pyramid, veganism or sad, actually more genetically adapted to it?" It could be the influence of the other factors I brought up, but I would say most likely. Not optimally adapted to it I would argue, just better adapted than the many who do poorly on such a diet.


on June 11, 2012
at 01:25 AM

Look into epigenetics and nurtigenomics.

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