Winter 2015

A Reason to be Choosy about Fat

Diet may exacerbate genetic obesity risk

Previous Next

Illustration: Juliette Borda

Limiting saturated fat could help people whose genetic makeup increases their chance of being obese. Researchers from the Jean Mayer USDA Human Nutrition Research Center on Aging (HNRCA) at Tufts identified 63 gene variants related to obesity and used them to calculate an obesity risk score for more than 2,800 white American men and women enrolled in two large studies on preventing heart disease.

Those with a higher genetic risk score who consumed more of their calories as saturated fat were more likely to have a higher Body Mass Index (BMI), the ratio of body weight to height.

“We already know there are certain genes that interact with dietary fat and affect BMI,” says senior author José M. Ordovás, Ph.D., director of the Nutrition and Genomics Laboratory at the HNRCA and a professor at the Friedman School. “In the current study, we analyzed dozens of variants of those genes and other genes frequently associated with obesity risk and saw that while total fat intake was related to higher BMI, people who were genetically predisposed to obesity and ate the most saturated fat had the highest BMIs.”

As for why this would be the case, Ordovás says some research suggests that saturated fat might interfere with activity in the part of the brain that lets us know we’re full. He said more research is needed to know whether those findings would apply to gene function. The study appeared in the Journal of the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics.

 

Top Stories

Toxic Crops

In developing countries, a food contaminant may be stunting children’s growth

Why So Good?

The science behind yogurt’s aura of health

Finding  the Next Famine

Christopher Hillbruner, N07, and his team monitor the globe to predict the world’s coming food crises

Move It or Lose It

For adults over 70, simple exercises are good for health, mobility and mood

A Farmer’s Double Life

Raising crops isn’t always lucrative, but maybe that’s OK

Editor's Picks

For a Longer Life, Add Less Salt

Study finds too much sodium a worldwide killer 

Home-Packed Lunches Fall Short

New study finds those brown bags are usually strong on snacks and weak on nutrition 

The Price Should Be Right

On taxing the rich (foods, that is) to subsidize the healthful

Enlightened Palate

Eat the whole farm, advises one of America’s top chefs

The Dope on Dopamine

And why it makes it hard to diet