Genetics & Weight Loss

Several years ago I attended a health & wellness conference where one presenter (a very impressive professor from a very impressive college) spoke about the role of genetics in health & weight loss. The lecture was appropriately titled “Why don’t my designer jeans fit? It’s because of my genes”.

The presenter, Dr. Linda Pescatello, has studied & published work on things such as:

  • genetic and clinical determinants of the immediate antihypertensive effects of exercise

  • genetic determinants of habitual physical activity

  • genetic determinants of the muscle size and strength response to resistance training

Basically, how do genes affect the way people respond to things like exercise, muscle gain & high blood pressure medications?

What was so interesting was that no matter the study, participant results produced a bell curve graph similar to this:



The research showed that when a group of individuals were given a health intervention, such as exercise or blood pressure medication, about 10% responded incredibly well (high performers), 10% responded minimally or not at all (low performers) and the majority, around 80%, would have a moderate response (average performer).

So, what’s the application? 

Your friend goes on a gluten free diet and loses 50 lbs, looks 10 years younger, has boundless energy, glowing skin and a new outlook on life. You quit gluten and get nothing but a bad craving for pasta. It doesn’t mean that diet doesn’t work, it just means that might not be the right diet for you. She’s a super responder to the gluten free diet, while you're on the lower end of the bell curve. 

We all have areas where we are low responders. We all have areas where we are super responder. Chances are, most of the time we fall somewhere in the middle.

Most people know on some level which foods work and which foods don’t - for them. Yes, it’s a bit of trial and error and yes, there is definitely some common ground (less processed, more whole foods) but what works for someone else might not work the same for you. It doesn’t mean they are wrong or that you are a lost cause.

What does that mean in terms of weight loss?  It means that if you aren’t dropping pounds like a British bank robber being chased by police you aren’t necessarily doing something wrong. Listen to your gut (literally & figuratively) and follow the path you know is the right one for you, even if it means it will take some time and discipline. Eventually you can overcome your genes to fit in those jeans :)

Melissa AdrianComment