Genetic Link Between Obesity and Fried Foods

Weight gain from eating fried foods more likely among those with a genetic risk for obesity

(RxWiki News) Fried foods in excess are widely considered a contributor to obesity. But an individual’s genetic makeup may impact how staples like French fries and chicken wings add to weight gain.

New research suggests that people who have a genetic risk for obesity may be more likely to gain weight from fried foods than individuals without the same genetic risk.

The negative effects of eating fried foods could vary from person to person, depending on the presence of certain gene markers. But according to the authors of this study, changing eating habits could help prevent obesity and related illness in everyone, not just those at risk of obesity.

"Discuss your diet and obesity risk with a doctor."

Frank Hu, MD, MPH, PhD, professor of nutrition and epidemiology at the Harvard School of Public Health, co-authored this study with Dr. Lu Qi, an assistant professor in the Department of Nutrition at Harvard School of Public Health, Brigham and Women’s Hospital and Harvard Medical School.

The research team considered data collected from 6,379 men and 31,049 women.

Participants answered questions about their diet and how often they ate fried foods. The researchers also took into account physical activity, lifestyle and body mass index (BMI), a height-based calculation of body fat.

These researchers calculated genetic risk scores based on gene markers associated with BMI.

The findings revealed that regularly eating fried food was associated with a higher percentage of body fat. The effects of over consumption were more acute in people genetically prone to obesity.

“Our study shows that a higher genetic risk of obesity may amplify the adverse effects of fried food consumption on body weight," Dr. Qi said in a press statement.

Dr. Qi added that high intakes of fried food may worsen these harmful genetic effects.

This research team concluded that cutting down on fried foods is a good idea for everyone, but particularly for those genetically at risk for obesity.

“The risk of obesity could be mitigated by simply changing an eating habit,” Dr. Hu said.

“From a public health point of view, everyone should be encouraged to adopt healthy eating habits, not just those who are genetically susceptible,” he said.

"Epigenetics tells us that we can change the way our genes are expressed by up to 70 percent by our lifestyle choices," said Rusty Gregory, a personal trainer and wellness coach in Austin, Texas and a dailyRx Contributing Expert.

"For those who are predisposed genetically to obesity, it is of the utmost importance to live a lifestyle that promotes weight management. The good news is, that regardless of your genetics, you can always better your situation, i.e. lose weight and prevent disease, by the lifestyle choices you make," Gregory said.

This study was published in BMJ on March 18.

Funding was provided by the National Institutes of Health, with additional support from Merck Research Laboratories.

Review Date: 
March 19, 2014