Dieting Makes Your Genes work differently
Summer is coming and as we shed those heavy clothes of winter, once again we become self- conscious about the weight we gained during the past holidays. Or was it just from eating a lot of comfort food during this past drastic winter? People think they gain weight over the Christmas holidays but the fact is, we gain the weight between New Years and Christmas. In any case, many of us will start to diet again in spite of all the failures from the past, and just like before it will not work this time again.
An ambitious new study published this month in Cell Systems, however, promises to shed some new light, enumerating for the first time the thousands of changes in genes and various biological systems that may occur after even a small amount of weight gain, and which may—or may not—be reversed if the weight is then dropped. The findings may help researchers better understand why adding weight causes some people to develop diabetes and other conditions, and also show the cumulative health risks of so-called yo-yo dieting.
An international consortium of scientists approached 23 overweight men and women who were already part of a large continuing study—called an “omics” study in the language of researchers—that examines participants’ genomes and microbiomes and generates vast amounts of data about the workings of the body.
But an ‘omics” study had never looked at the effects of weight change. After taking blood and other samples from their volunteers, the scientists asked the men and women to overeat. All of them began the study overweight; about half were insulin resistant, which is usually a precursor to diabetes. For a month they added 880 calories a day to their diets and gained an average of six pounds.
The scientists then asked the volunteers to cut calories and lose that new weight, (“evil scientists”) which took most of them at least twice as long as the gaining had. After more samples, the researchers asked the participants to keep their weight stable and return after three months for a final round of blood tests.
In those tests, the scientists found many biological changes related to the changes in weight. They found that 318 genes worked differently after most subjects had gained even a little weight. Some genes were more active, while others were effectively turned off. Many of these genes are thought to be involved in fat metabolism.
The scientists also found multiple new molecular markers in people’s blood after weight gain that can indicate increased inflammation throughout the body and, rather worrisomely, the possible beginnings of cardiomyopathy, or an enlarged heart. Most of these modifications reverted to their previous normal state once the men and women lost the added weight.
Over all, the results indicate that, after even a relatively small amount of weight gain, “imbalances and shifts occur” throughout the body’s biological systems, says Michael Snyder, chairman of the department of genetics at Stanford University and the study’s senior author. Even if you later drop those pounds, the shifts “are not reset completely.”
And so it always comes to this conclusion; yo-yo dieting is very bad for you and the best solution is always a change in life-style. Eating more of a plant-based diet with less emphasis on meats; getting at least 30 minutes of moderate exercise each day; getting a good night’s sleep ( at least 7 hours); staying away from fast food and sugary drinks and leading a moderate life style that is very consistent with good health. Easier said than done.