BOSTONEating fried foods may affect people differently depending on their genetic makeup, according to a new study published in the British Medical Journal. Those with a genetic predisposition toward obesity run a higher risk of gaining excess weight and developing obesity-related chronic diseases compared to people at a lower genetic risk.
A team of Harvard researchers, led by Lu Qi, assistant professor in the Department of Nutrition at HSPH, analyzed data from 9,623 women in the Nurses' Health Study, 6,379 men in the Health Professionals Follow-up Study, and 21,426 women in the Women's Genome Health Study. Participants filled out food frequency questionnaires that asked how often they ate fried foods at home and away from home. Body mass index (BMI) and lifestyle factors, such as physical activity, were also assessed. Genetic risk scores were calculated based on genetic variants associated with BMI.
Results showed that regular consumption of fried foods was associated with higher BMIs after taking into account other dietary and lifestyle factors. In addition, the study showed that the association between overconsumption of fried foods and obesity was particularly pronounced among people with a greater genetic predisposition to obesity. On the other hand, the genetic effect on BMI among those who ate fried foods more than four times per week was about twice as large compared with those who ate them less than once per week.
"Our findings indicate that genetic risk of obesity could be mitigated by simply changing an eating habit," said Frank Hu, co-author and professor of nutrition and epidemiology at HSPH. "From a public health point of view, everyone should be encouraged to adopt healthy eating habits, not just those who are genetically susceptible."
While the United States continues to fight an ongoing battle against obesity, improved eating habits and an increased availability of healthy foods has helped to stabilize obesity rates since 2003.