People with a genetic risk of obesity should avoid saturated fat, national study of 2,800 people suggests

A new study shows that avoiding saturated fat may be advantageous for those whose genetic makeup predisposes them to obesity. Researchers from the Jean Mayer USDA Human Nutrition Research Center on Aging at Tufts University used 63 gene variants associated with obesity to determine a genetic risk score for obesity for more than 2,800 white, American adults participating in two studies about heart disease prevention.

“People with a higher genetic risk score, who also consumed more of their calories as saturated fat, were more likely to have a higher body mass index, the ratio of body weight to height,” Newswise reports.

“We already know there are certain genes that interact with dietary fat and affect BMI,” said senior author Jose M. Ordovas, Ph.D., director of the Nutrition and Genomics Laboratory at the USDA center and a professor at the Friedman School of Nutrition Science and Policy at Tufts. We “saw that while total fat intake was related to higher BMI, people who were genetically predisposed to obesity and ate the most saturated fat had the highest BMIs.”

The study is published in the Journal of the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics. The findings also take into consideration factors like age, sex and physical activity levels. Ordovas and the other researchers believe that those who have genetic makeups predisposing them to obesity might be more easily affected by saturated fat, which is often found in fatty cuts of meats, butter, cheese and other high-fat dairy products.

Ordovas said that although they cannot yet explain with confidence the “role of saturated fat intake in obesity . . . Some clinical models suggest that saturated fat might interfere with activity in the part of the brain that lets us know we’re full, in addition to a few studies in people that suggest a diet high in saturated fat interferes with satiety.” Ordovas also said that if additional research could explain the connection between obesity-related genes and saturated fat, people would have even more convincing reasons to eat less saturated fat. (Read more)

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