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Genetic factors on nutrition

Limited evidence of the effect of genetic factors on nutrition

To date, around 100 genes (loci) have been identified that are related to BMI

There is no consistent evidence that single nucleotide polymorphisms (SNPs) are associated with and predictive for total energy, carbohydrate and fat intakes, according to researchers at the Technical University of Munich (TUM), Munich, Germany, who carried out a systematic literature review and determined that there is no clear evidence. Therefore, they concluded that according to the current state of knowledge, the expedience of gene-based dietary recommendations has yet to be proven.

To date, around 100 genes (loci) have been identified that are related to BMI. However, the function of these genes and the biological mechanisms behind them are still largely unknown. The investigation of the relationship between genetic factors and nutrition can shed light on whether the genes linked to BMI play a role in nutrition.

In the paper, ‘Associations between Single Nucleotide Polymorphisms and Total Energy, Carbohydrate, and Fat Intakes: A Systematic Review’, published in Advances in Nutrition, 39 articles were identified for a relationship between genetic factors and total energy, carbohydrate or fat consumption.

"In all studies, we most frequently encountered the fat mass and obesity associated gene (FTO) as well as the melanocortin 4 receptor gene (MC4R). There are indications of a relationship between these two genes and total energy intake," explained Dr Christina Holzapfel from the Institute of Nutritional Medicine at TUM. However, the evaluation of the studies did not provide a uniform picture. "There is only limited evidence for the relationship between the FTO gene and low energy intake as well as between the MC4R gene and increased energy intake," he added.

Hence, to date, there exist no indications that genetic factors are associated with the total intake of calories, carbohydrates and fat. The current state of knowledge is still too limited for deriving individual nutritional recommendations based on genetic information, e.g. for weight management, the authors concluded. They added that human studies with detailed phenotyping (eg based on a genetic pre-analysis of the participants), are necessary in order to determine the interactions between genetic factors and diet on body weight. The Personalized Nutrition and eHealth Junior Research Group funded by the Federal Ministry of Education and Research, which is part of the enable nutrition cluster, is now working on this.

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