Do you ever feel like:
- You exercise and eat well, but do not see positive results on the bathroom scale?
- Do you have a family history of dementia or heart disease and often wonder if you could lower your risk?
- Do you know that detoxification is important but it just seems hard to stay on top of it?
If you answered yes to any of these questions, I can relate – I’ve been there myself! When it comes down to it, your frustration might be with your genes. When Dr. Christianson and I went through medical school, we thought that genes and family history – like obesity, Alzheimer’s, heart disease – were destiny.
It turns out that you may be stuck with the genes you have, but not how those genes are expressed. You can turn on and off certain genes to help:
- Reach your deal weight
- Develop a sharp mind
- Maintain a healthy body
So, even with a family history of Alzheimer’s disease, you can alter your risk with lifestyle choices. If you’re like me, you may have the top 5 obesity genes, but you can still fit in your skinny jeans. You can also eat in a way that keeps detoxification happening in the background while you enjoy your life.
In this article, we will look at the main gene affecting weight loss and gain, the main gene affecting your risk of Alzheimer’s and heart disease, and the gene affecting detoxification. I’ll describe the job of each gene and your task to get the gene to work for you!
Start with Weight Loss
As researchers continue to look at the main genes that affect your weight, they have found that people with variations of certain genes are more likely to gain weight than others. I know because I have most of the bad variants! Fortunately, I discovered the small tweaks that make your genes work for you, rather than against you.
Scientists have now discovered about 75 gene variants that increase the chances of obesity. Genetic variation in these genes help to explain why two people could eat the same diet and one person gains weight while the other does not.
One theory is that people who gain more weight from eating the same amount of calories (including the same carbohydrates, fat, and protein) relates to the fact that it was once an advantage in evolution. Thousands of years ago, food was often scarce, so being able to gain weight from very few calories could have meant the difference between life and death. Now, food is plentiful. Still, these genes persist in some people’s chromosomes, also known as “famine” genes.
The Worst Gene for Getting Fat: FTO
Of all the genes that affect weight gain, the #1 culprit is the Fatso (FTO) gene.
Fat mass and obesity associated (FTO) gene
The FTO gene is strongly associated with your body mass index and, consequently, your risk for obesity and diabetes. When you have the variant, it gives you sloppy control of leptin, a hormone in charge of satiety. In other words, you’re hungry all of the time.
You can turn on the Fatso gene with exercise, sleeping 7 to 8.5 hours and a low-calorie food plan that’s high in fiber.
It turns out that weight gain is one of the most powerful determinants of how fast you are aging. MIT scientists used DNA editing technology to switch on and off the gene in lab mice. Mice with the fully-activated gene showed much higher metabolism rates and remained lean and fit – regardless of their diet.
Dr. C’s Comments
Isn’t that an ironic name for the gene? People with FTO issues may be more fat-sensitive and tend to eat more fat as children.
“Meanwhile, mutation of FTO was influenced by higher fatty acid intake,. Some reports have suggested that FTO gene products influence the regulation of food intake, as children carrying the risk allele tend to choose higher energy and more fat food[48,49].”
Their weight is also sensitive to subtle changes in thyroid levels.
“influence of FTO variants on pituitary function has a strong association with TSH levels”
The Main Gene for Alzheimers’s and Heart Disease: APOE4
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reported that in 2015, for the first time in several years, longevity declined, due to an uptick in heart disease, diabetes, stroke, and Alzheimer’s disease. If those diagnoses seem abstract and irrelevant to you now, consider that by the year 2030, 20 percent of the population will be 65 or older (compared with 13 percent in 2010).
New cases of Alzheimer’s will rise by 35 percent. You do not want to be included in those statistics! Read on for important details that relate to your risk of Alzheimer’s.
Apolipoprotein E gene
The APOE gene instructs cells to make a lipoprotein that combines with fat and transports cholesterol particles in the blood and brain. You inherit a copy of the APOE gene—e2, e3, or e4—from each parent. People with the bad variant of this gene, APOE4 (or sometimes APO-e4), don’t recycle cholesterol, leading to higher levels of low-density lipoprotein (LDL, or bad cholesterol) in the blood.
People with one copy of APOE4 (from one parent) have a threefold greater risk of developing Alzheimer’s disease. People with two copies of APOE4 (from each parent) have an eight- to fifteen-fold increased risk.
When the good variant (APOE2 or APOE3) is turned on, you may lower your risk of heart attack, stroke, and Alzheimer’s disease. When you have one or two copies of the bad variant (APOE4), you will want to turn it off with the strategies in the Younger protocol, such as sticking to an anti-inflammatory diet, exercising to keep your muscle hungry for glucose, managing stress and cortisol, keeping your blood sugar stable, and getting 7 to 8.5 hours of restorative sleep daily.
Dr. C’s Comments
To me, this is one of the most fascinating genes. It influences how we metabolize fat. Those who have an e2 variation and no e4 (2/2, 2/3) are likely more fat tolerant. They can metabolize animal fat better and can tolerate lower carb diets. Those with the e4 variation (2/4, 3/4, 4/4) are likely more fat sensitive and do better on less animal fat, and more low glycemic good carbs.
It also has implications for head trauma. Those who have the 3/4 or 4/4 variant are more likely to have major brain trauma after head trauma or concussion. Since my son and I both have the 3/4 gene, he plays flag football rather than tackle football.
The Detox Gene: MTHFR
One of the main ways that you detoxify is to methylate. The MTHFR gene determines how certain chemicals are tagged in the body, or methylated, and also how you detox alcohol in your system (alcohol blocks methylation). You can think of methyl tags as decorating the DNA strand, like charms on a necklace, thereby quieting the gene.
Methylenetetrahydrofolate reductase (MTHFR) gene
The Detox gene provides instructions for making an enzyme that plays an important role in the processing of vitamin B9 and amino acids, the building blocks of proteins. It also helps you detoxify alcohol.
Work around a defect in the Detox gene by eating adequate folate—not too little, which may lead to depression, high blood pressure, heart disease, stroke, addiction, and cancer. Great sources of folate include black-eyed peas, lentils, spinach, cauliflower, peas, and okra.
Dr. C’s Comments
The overlap between MTHF-R genes and thyroid function is staggering, likely over 99.9%. Another big action step is to carefully avoid all versions of synthetic folate which is called folic acid. You will find it in processed grains, b-vitamins and many other supplements. If you have an MTHFR variation, not only does folic acid not work as natural folate does, but it blocks natural folate from working. Think of it as a bad key that breaks off and jams up the lock.
By Sara Gottfried MD & Dr. Alan Glen Christianson (Dr. C) Naturopathic Endocrinologist