Most of us have seen the statistics depicting that more and more individuals, worldwide, are suffering from either excessive weight gain or obesity, especially within the developed nations. This, in part, is due to the fact that many individuals are finding that they are trapped in a lifestyle that is quite busy and hectic. This being said, many individuals are finding it increasingly more difficult to consistently set aside the time to regularly perform an exercise routine, to participate in a variety of physical type activities, and to consistently consume a healthy whole foods diet that is well balanced and nutritionally rich.
The combination of decreasing the total number of calories burned per day, due to lack of sufficient physical activity, while increasing the total number of calories consumed per day only serves to worsen the problem of excessive weight gain.
In regards to traditional dietary intake wisdom, at least over the last 40 years or so, individuals have been told that they should avoid fried foods due to their large quantities of saturated fat and calories. However, a newly published study suggests that fried foods don’t affect everyone equally. In the study, changes in the subjects’ body mass index (BMI) after eating fried foods seemed to depend largely on their genetic propensity for obesity.
Genetics Play a Role in Individual’s Risk of Obesity, Says Study
To conduct their study, researchers from the Harvard School of Public Health Department of Nutrition looked at health information gathered from about 37,000 adults over the course of the 80s and 90s. The participants were surveyed regarding their dietary intake every four years during this time period.
The researchers also analyzed the genetics of the study subjects to look for 32 different genetic markers believed to be tied to obesity. The researchers then rated each individual’s risk for obesity based on how many of these genetic markers they possessed, noting that some markers have more influence on obesity risk than others.
The results showed that women genetically predisposed to obesity who ate fried food about four times weekly during the study period possessed body mass indexes approximately one point greater than women who reported dining on fried food only every other week or so. For a woman who stands 5’3″, this equates to roughly six pounds of additional body weight. However, when comparing women with a low genetic disposition for obesity, this same difference in fried food consumption only resulted in half-a-point’s worth of BMI difference.
Similar findings were observed in men, and the individuals in the study with both the highest prevalence of obesity genes and greatest frequency of fried food consumption had the most unhealthy BMIs of all study subjects.
More Research is Needed
This isn’t the first study the Harvard researchers have conducted regarding genetics and obesity. In another recent study, they found that certain genetic markers make some individuals more susceptible to weight gain as a result of drinking soda. Both studies suggest that people who are genetically predisposed to obesity should use extra caution when deciding whether to consume high-calorie foods, especially those with little nutrients like soda. Although it can be expensive to undergo genetic testing to identify the presence of these genetic markers, you can look at your family tree to get some idea of your genetic predispositions.
The Harvard researchers are confident in their study findings as well, noting that they accounted for many lifestyle factors that could have swayed the results, including exercise habits, TV-watching habits, soda consumption and more. At the same time, the researchers cautioned that they only found a link of association and not causation. In other words, other unaccounted factors could have had some influence on the results.
Further, the researchers cautioned that even those with a low genetic propensity for obesity should still be careful not to eat fried foods too often, and the same could be said about any food that’s high in fat and calories.
Fried Foods and Obesity: The Bottom Line
A recent Harvard study suggests that while eating fried foods too frequently will raise your body mass index, those with genetic markers linked to obesity will gain the most weight from eating fried foods at a given frequency.
The researchers behind the study hope that as genetic testing becomes more accessible and affordable, more precise dietary recommendations will become possible.
The full text of the study is available online in the British Medical Journal.