One of the main pillars of Nutrition Genome is the understanding that one diet does not fit all because we are all different. It is also why so many studies and sources of dietary advice seem to continually contradict.
If you look at diets around the world, the protein, fat and carbohydrate ratios range based on the environment. Traditional diets show that as you get closer to the equator, you see a shift in more plant foods. As you get farther from the equator, you see more animal and fat consumption. Our bodies respond to the climate as well. For example, spending time in the sun depletes folate, increasing the need for folate-rich plants.
Agriculture has created a manufactured diet full of foods from every climate that we can ship from all over the world. This leads to dietary confusion of what is seasonal and best for you. We have the choice now of a high-fat diet or plant-based diet despite our environment or time of the year. While it seems more obvious that plant intake would change based on the season, fat intake has been more debated. Take a look below at the percentage of fat on a caribou throughout the year from this study:
What we can see here is that fat is accumulated by the caribou to prepare for winter and is leanest in the spring. Therefore, whether our hunter-gatherer ancestors hunted in the spring or the fall in an environment like Alaska or Canada would determine the fat available on the animal. Interesting enough, many nuts ripen in the fall, increasing our fat intake at that time. So not only would our geography determine fat and plant intake, but the time of the year.
What is the Best Protein, Fat and Carbohydrate Ratio for You?
As we begin to enter summer, interest begins to rise for the ultimate diet for getting in the best shape. The majority of people are attracted to the extremes of high-fat diets, high protein diets, and extremely low carbohydrate diets in the hope of getting extreme results quickly. The problem is that some people can find themselves having elevated glucose or cravings with a higher saturated fat intake, fatigue and digestive strain from high protein diets, and thyroid dysfunction, fatigue, and depression from low carbohydrate diets.
The Nutrition Genome Report looks at multiple genes that can help give you clues into unlocking your unique metabolism. While digestive enzyme levels, the microbiome, and other epigenetic health changes must be taken into consideration, the following genes can be a useful guide to understanding your macronutrient metabolism.
For those with a heterozygous or homozygous MTHFR 1298 gene, high protein intake may deplete BH4 levels, causing higher ammonia and fatigue. These people tend to do best on smaller to moderate portions of protein at one sitting depending on their exercise levels.
The ACAT gene is responsible for the conversion of protein and fat into energy with the help of B-vitamins 1-5. Variants in this gene can increase the sensitivity to low B-vitamin levels induced by medications, excess coffee, alcohol, and flour-based foods, leading to poor protein metabolism.
The TCF7L2 gene is known for its association to Type 2 diabetes and responds best to a diet higher in protein and lower in grain-based carbohydrates. This gene is discussed more below in the carbohydrate section.
The fat metabolism section looks at multiple genes to help understand how your body responds to saturated fat, monounsaturated fat, and polyunsaturated fat.
For those with a homozygous APOA2 gene, saturated fat intake (especially dairy) does not send the same signal to the brain as people with the normal or heterozygous APOA2 variant that you are full. So what happens is these foods make you want to keep eating. Therefore, a diet higher in saturated fat is not recommended for this genotype.
The ACSL1 gene plays an important role in fatty acid metabolism and triglyceride synthesis. Disturbance of these pathways may result in dyslipidemia and insulin resistance, hallmarks of the metabolic syndrome. Individuals with the homozygous ACSL1 gene have been found to be more insulin resistant when their saturated fat intake was over 35%. However, when the type of fat shifted to monounsaturated fat and polyunsaturated fat (fish, poultry, nuts, seeds, olive oil, avocado), the risk of metabolic syndrome was completely eliminated.
The SLC22A5 gene is responsible for L-carnitine production, which is a fatty acid carrier and increases the sensitivity of the cells to insulin. People with multiple homozygous genes in this category needs to focus on magnesium and B-vitamins 1-5, the co-factors for this gene. Depletion of both will affect oxidative stress from fat. This is one of the ways magnesium helps lower oxidative stress and regulates blood sugar levels. What fats are highest in magnesium? Nuts and seeds. Coconut oil does not require acetylcarnitine transferase to cross the inner mitochondrial membrane, and therefore, is a good fat for those with multiple homozygous variants in SLC22A5.
The TCF7L2 gene is a new addition to the Nutrition Genome Report and I refer to it as the “Paleo” gene. The TCF7L2 gene has become the strongest indicator of Type 2 diabetes and gestational diabetes risk for multiple ethnicities in studies.
This gene is unique in its relation to Type 2 diabetes because people with variants in TCF7L2 may not exhibit risk signs like obesity. In fact, they may have a low body mass index (BMI) and low triglycerides. This is because the gene isn’t connected to insulin sensitivity, but to the sensitivity of pancreatic β-cells to gut hormones called incretins that regulate the amount of insulin secreted.
So why do I call it the “Paleo” gene? One study found that the consumption of meals based on the Paleolithic diet (no grains or dairy) focusing on fish, polyphenol-rich foods, fiber-rich vegetables and spices high in phytochemicals resulted in significant increases in incretin and increased perceived satiety (feeling full). All three test meals were normalized to contain 50 grams of carbohydrates. Sufficient protein in particular shows promise in the management of type 2 diabetes by stimulating incretin, insulin secretion, and slowing gastric emptying.
If you have Type 2 diabetes in your family and a heterozygous or homozygous TCF7L2 gene, your body may respond best to a diet that either eliminates or minimizes grain consumption, and dairy based on other genes.
A lot of my clients have confirmed the accuracy of the protein, fat, and carbohydrate gene breakdown with their own bodies and implemented the changes with success. Looking at your unique biochemistry can help decipher how you will respond to all of the diets that are touted to be the best. Whether it is a Paleo diet, the Mediterranean diet, high-fat or plant-based, your body will give you the feedback on what makes you look and feel the healthiest.