In a scramble to get the UK into better shape to cope with future pandemics, the government has launched it’s new Obesity Strategy. But do we really understand the cause of the obesity pandemic?

This new sense of urgency comes with evidence of the links between obesity and increased risk of complications with COVID19.
The statistics around obesity in the UK are shocking. Around two thirds of UK adults are overweight or living with obesity; and last year in England alone, there were over 876,000 hospital admissions where obesity was a factor.

Diet, metabolism or genes?

We have such a ready supply of cheap, calorie rich, nutrient poor food in the western world, it’s no real surprise that weight management is becoming an uphill struggle.

If you then consider that almost 90% of us aren’t eating enough dietary fibre, and only 30% of us are getting our 5 a day – it’s looking like an average UK diet is high in refined carbs and lacking in nutrient dense wholegrains, fruit and veg.

I won’t dwell here on the catastrophic effect this type of diet has on the microbiome.  Or the emerging evidence on the importance of a healthy microbiome to overall health and immunity.  I will cover that in a later blog for any of you who are still reading lol!

So, we know that diet is playing a huge part in our obesity crisis; but is it the only factor? What about your genes? What about your metabolism?

In truth there are a combination of factors at work that dictate your response to the food that you eat.  Genes certainly can dictate your metabolism, but did you know that conversely, what you choose to eat can also influence your genes?

Genetics is a complicated field, but in a nutshell – the DNA you were born with doesn’t change, BUT the way some of those genes are expressed, can be influenced by diet and lifestyle factors.

Your individual response to carbohydrate metabolism

One of the best examples of this is the AMY1 gene.  This gene is responsible for an enzyme present in our saliva called salivary amylase. Salivary amylase starts the process of starch digestion in the mouth and gut.  Changes in this gene may predispose us to obesity dependant on how much starchy food we eat.

People usually have 2 copies of each gene, but for some reason, the number of copies of AMY1 can be highly variable between people.  It is believed that higher numbers of copies of the AMY1 gene have evolved in response to a shift towards diets containing more starch since prehistoric times.

Some of us however don’t seem to have made this evolutionary leap as effectively as others! This is significant in the battle with obesity or weight loss, as people who carry a low number of copies of this gene have been found to be at greater risk of obesity and may benefit from a diet lower in starchy carbohydrates.

It’s always a good idea to get advice from a registered professional when making changes to your diet.  Please get in touch for a free initial chat to discuss any concerns you might have about diet, weight loss or simply achieving optimum health Talk to the DNA Nutritionist


Roz Witney

Author Roz Witney

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