Saturday, October 24, 2015

Does knowing your genetic risks for obesity help or does it hinder? part 1 of several- It wasn't my fault

Karen age 7, many obesity genetic risks
I read this article from Dr. Sharma's website

My answer to the question: Can information on the genetic nature of obesity reduce perceived weight discrimination and increase the willingness to eat healthier?

Part 1 of several topics from my past, and present.

My answer: YES to the knowing my genetic risks.  I'll leave the perceived discrimination for another time.

Willingness to eat a low inflammatory food template: Even before I got my 23nMe genetic results, I had refined how to NOT have the obesity pheotype (aka have obesity) while still having the obesity genotype.  Paleo-ish, low carb, higher natural , NSNG- no sugars no grains, template for weight maintenance. That's my personal food approach to my personal obesity risks. I didn't need my genetic report to get that far. I experimented around and found those food templates.

What my genetic risk report gave me: I was able to heal up from some of the worst mental pain from being an obese kid in the 70's and 80's.

It wasn't my fault: I was an obese kid for most of elementary school.  I was seven years old in the photo.Being obese anytime is tough. It was especially tough in the 70's and 80's. I was one of the only obese kids in my elementary at the time.
Special Note* I wasn't the only one. This is not a poor me post. Not tougher than the other kids had it. Everyone bullied one another for being "different".  Race, family income, being a different sexual orientation, religion, being obese, being super thin, short, tall. All differences were grounds in Central Indiana for getting the stuff kicked out of you physically and mentally on the playground. There was much worse bulling going on around me. We were all in the same boat as far as the culture of the time*

It wasn't my fault: I have the genetic risks for childhood obesity. I have many obesity risk genes. Double copies in some cases, single copies in other cases. Remember it's not single SNP sets but the combination of genetics, environment, combinations of genes and environment. ( I must say, NSNG for the WIN!!!, thank you Vinnie and Anna Vocino, for making no sugars and no grains popular. I can now be a cool kid. You have no idea how happy this makes me.)

More info on this FTO SNP, just one of many FTO risks I have.

More info on this extra Ghrelin/FTO SNP, I have no doubt that ghrelin plays a role

It wasn't my fault my genes expressed themselves. Sometimes you don't get the disease when you are high risk. Sometimes you do. I did. I had obesity starting from age 6 to 46. I had times where I wasn't obese, but I often battled binge urges.

It wasn't my parents fault. No one in my immediate family  had obesity in the 1970's and 80's in the younger generations. Maybe overweight from time to time. They tried their best. Nothing offered worked and in many cases, ineffective recommended tools did more harm than good.

It wasn't my fault: An elementary school kid is not going to have the mental capacity to navigate high risk obesity genetics. I would have depended on the root cause to be identified and then EFFECTIVE corrective and preventive measures.  The experts are there yet, even in 2015. Good thing I set up some n=1 self experiments and am not holding my breath!! ;)

Karen- moderating sugars, grains 2009, obesity genes expressed
It isn't my fault now: Until genetic risk factors for obesity, type 2 diabetes, extra ghrelin production (hunger hormone) and others get paired up with the right for you food templates for obesity, some of us are going to have obesity. Calories in and calories out are just not effective or comprehensive for many of us. It may be a partial fix. For many people with obesity risks- we are not weak willed people, we just don't have effective tools for our genotypes. It's not our fault.  

That being said, I take full responsibility for my health.

 There are many  food templates that seem to help. NSNG, LCHF, Paleo, Primal, Refuse to Regain strategies,Vegan & Vegetarian (yes, this works well for some, don't hate), Abstaining from certain foods  (OA and FA have a jump up on this strategy).  Even within an abstaining population, the types of food each person may need to give up vary widely with good reason- we have different genotypes and resulting phenotypes.

Karen 2015- have obesity genes without the obesity phenotype
Who knows what other inputs may effect obesity. Gut microbes, sleep, stress, auto-immune diseases? Multi input process

There's no one Answer, but because there are inexpensive genetic tests and some effective food templates that work with personal genetics, some will start to live without obesity even though we are hard coded genetically for it. It's a more than a bit tricky to find the right combo. It's an exciting time with personal genetics starting to emerge.

The answer was inside of me, I just had to get out my own way and match up the right food template. It was a lot of work, but very well worth it.

Part 2, I'll dive down into some "answers" I got when I was young into what was going to work when I was older.

Here's what's working

1. No Sugar No Grains, Paleo-ish, LCHF,  Wahl's Paleo Plus food template
2. Knowing, understanding, and accepting my genetic risks from my 23nMe genetic report.
3. Time to prioritize my NSNG, LCHF lifestyle- cooking, sleeping, stress reduction
4. Accepting what I can and cannot change and not carrying guilt and monkeys  around with me.

Here's what didn't work in the past

1. Moderating sugars and grains
2. Not knowing my hard coded genetic risks, comparing myself to genetic normies.
3. Not prioritizing time and habits that were effective
4. Failing to fully accept the effective food and lifestyle template. After my WW leaders drilling it into me that moderation WAS required, I failed to have the proper backbone to get the heck away from that environment. It's not the  fault of WW, but my fault for not breaking from ineffectiveness sooner.

Question for my readers: Has anyone else been helped from knowing their genetic risks? Has anyone changed their food template and made medical decisions to their success? Anyone else able to get ineffective monkey's off their back?


  1. ! Amen !

    This post is my experience--except that i was the fit child in the 50s and 60s. So not typical. Like you no one in my immediate or extended family were overweight as children. Pictures show normal--even wiry--children and teenagers. My mother and only sibling were THIN; my father was an athlete who went from thin to a bit "stocky" as he aged, but not obese. Then...there was me. Fat from birth. Really. There are pictures of me as a toddler with rolls of belly fat. I was not super-morbidly obese, but definitely, noticeably overweight. As a 5'4" high school senior, I weighed 207 pounds.

    If it was my family's eating habits that were to blame, someone besides me would have been overweight. But, no.

    In response to various maladies (diabetes & dermatitis herpetiformis [from gluten]), I discovered what food choices worked for me. My ideal food plan is almost the same as yours.

    Unlike you, I resisted believing it. I wanted the people who told me it was a faddish, bandwagon thing to be right. My years (I mean YEARS) of going low carb and feeling better must be a temporary fix or a coincidence. Surely not an ideal eating plan...right?

    Well, turns out--No. And that is what the geno-testing did for me. In addition to the relief of soul crushing shame and blame that you mentioned (No small thing!), my DNA results confirmed what experience had shown" I need a low carb, gluten free food plan.

    I have so many of the obesity risk genes, including childhood obesity markers, I lost count. They include a double hit of the ghrelin gene. And a double of the major celiac indicator. And double of the MTHFR gene. :o And, funny to me, a gene that says cilantro will taste like soap to me. It does. :} I've never been able to figure out why people like that stuff! Chuckle.

    This comment has turned into a post, so I'll stop ow. I could list many other reasons why DNA testing was an important and beneficial thing to do, apart from the whole obesity issue. Beyond health, I was able to see how God got between me and my DNA o several issues. Turns out that I have a double dose of the estrogen driven breast cancer gene that, when found, some women choose preventive surgery. I'm lumpy, but lumpectomies have been benign. I was always grateful for that--now I know just how much I had to be grateful for. There is more...

    Thanks, Karen, for your example. If it hadn't been for you, I wouldn't have known about this testing at all.


    1. Oh, I resisted, Deb. I was told in 2002 or so I should get off sugars and grains. I totally didn't believe it for a long, long time. Sigh..... It's hard to deal with mainstream. Plus, I had lost weight on a WW approach in 1998-2000. But I still binge ate.

      Yes, getting rid of the soul crushing shame. That's a good thing. :) Oh, and that cilantro gene, I don't have it but my daughter must. Total respect and careful spice combos at myself. And to think we were told to eat everything..... sigh.

      Glad you are getting benign biopsies. I know that there are additional inflammation markers they can test for before anyone takes action on the BRCA genetics.

      Take care and glad you found good things.

  2. Karen, I don't know my genetic information, but I now suspect I might be sensitive to gluten (this is a recent development). I always thought I could eat anything, but I have had some pretty significant skin issues (dermatitis or eczema) in the past few years. I am seeing a conventional doctor, but I am also experimenting with my food intake. If I stop all grains, I appear to get better. I really don't think it's my imagination. Then when certain food creep into my diet (like Caear salad dressing, which is not the best, I know), I get more issues. But gluten is in many dressings so that might explain some of my problems. So I am back to removing all grain sources from my diet. That aspect of my diet I am mastering. It is still hard, though, for me to remove all sugar. I find myself eating a little chocolate or a few sweets that are dairy based each day. And I do still eat dairy. I think sugar is the next thing that must go from my diet.

    I think you have mentioned this before, but I don't recall. Where did you get your testing done. This is something I am interested in doing. I also am going to talk to the dermatologist about being tested for food allergies.

    1. Ali, I suspect that many could n=1 their own experiments without a gene report. Along with my FTO genetics came the funny information that I'm genetically prone to large, itchy mosquito bites and I'm an intermediate caffeine metabolizer. Yes, yes, I could guess this, too. OTC cortisone cream and not drinking coffee past 1pm are easy fixes. LOL.

      But also more serious genetic stuff.

      I think it's valuable info that your skin conditions improve. When I was moderating dairy, I still had pretty terrible acne. When I removed it not only did my skin improve, but my sinus and allergies, did too. I found out later that not only that I have two copies of the lactose intolerance gene, that the casein in dairy can impact Hashimoto's people. About half of them. Dang it. Explains the poor results with even good ghee.

      Gluten hides many places.Inflammatory oils, too. The corn oil in the salad dressings really increased my inflammation. Corn. Many "olive oils" are really cut with corn, canola, and soy oils. Corn and canola oil really mess me up. Soy I can tolerate, but why do that?

      Yeah, I've had big benefits from removing grains and sugars. I can tolerate the 85% chocolate well. Even though there's 2-3 grams of sugar in each serving, the high natural fat is likely protective for me. I routinely take it out of my diet 1-2 months a year to test. I seem to do better with it that without.

      My 30 day experiments have yielded the absolute best info. Quick decision making for me. Other things like Dr. Berkelely's suggestion on a grain free diet post weight loss, well hard to argue with a board certified Obesity expert who has treated patients since 1980's.

      I got my testing done at 23nMe. (please note, I make no profit from suggesting this lab). They have recently changed their reporting - FDA stuff- (more comprehensive reporting) and their price has gone up, but for me, still very good money. I could spend $1,500 on my medical deductible per year, or I could target my screening tests based on what I learned on my 23nMe and spend say $100 per year on focused screening and home testing. And get a better outcome now and in the future.

      Of course, there are individual concerns. I'll always interface with my doctor and conventional meds. Always. Best of both worlds. I still get mammograms, etc. If offered screening tests, I can easily decide, with my doc, frequency. Very helpful and I've saved so much money.

    2. Thank you, Karen, for your long, informative answer. There is lots to chew on here (literally and figuratively). Yes, Dr. Berkeley was the first doctor I seriously read who stated that grain free was the most beneficial thing to do. Of course, I had heard about other low carb diets before her, but I never took them seriously. Now I do take low carb diets and the removal of all grains seriously. I do want to look into genetic testing. Like you, I will never give up conventional doctors, but it absolutely does not hurt--and in fact, it helps--to supplement any information from a doctor with a good diet. My primary care doctor is one hundred percent on board with a holistic approach, but the doctors who have treated me for my skin condition (I have seen a few) have discounted that diet would have any effect and instead only focused on prescribing medication. The only problem with discounting diet is that I seem to have had the best results by combining medication with diet.

      As always I appreciate your reasoned, well-thought out approach.

  3. "The experts are there yet, even in 2015. Good thing I set up some n=1 self experiments and am not holding my breath!! ;)"

    Did you mean to say the experts aren't there yet?

    1. Vickie, yes, the experts are NOT there yet with their recommendations. Even the food addiction MD's- Vera Tarman and Pamela Peeke, MD admit that there needs to be more research. They know the mutations, but admit that there needs to be more studies, clinical trials, etc. Plus the genetic risk factors for any disease won't equal the same thing in each individual person, due to environment.

      I react highly to xantham gum and guar gum. Others with similar genetics might not. Hopefully over the next 5 to 10 years there will be more research and retraining of the RD's, MD's, and eating disorder specialists that moderating all foods is not great for everyone. It's going to be a long, long road. Some of the RD's and MD's get it and are taking action.

      Although for other diseases like breast cancer, colon cancer, and even cystic fibrosis, the first thing they do with patients is get the genetic mutations tested. It leads to the best outcome for treatments. Most of it is insurance driven, but it does benefit patients. Certain gene mutations work with certain drugs. In other cases, the drugs will be detrimental. No way an insurance company will pay for drugs that won't work. Expensive, too.

      I'm certainly not going to hold my breath. I can navigate pretty well, even before I got my results. Other profit making weight loss groups will continue to mass recommend their packaged food products to those who need to not moderate that stuff. I'm still trying to decide if it is brilliant money making or a big huge rip off. It's estimated that >40% of obese have some level of food addiction. Suddenly moderating that weight loss sanctioned cupcake or low points bar is not recommended. But that's where the money comes in. Frozen and packaged and processed food. Shareholders to show a profit to.

      The FTO genetics are tied to type 2 diabetes genetics. And I don't have just one, I have many, many SNPs that have been studied and have quite a bit of high risk to them. I manage my obesity, I also manage not to develop type 2 as I age. Even in long term maintenance, I was still developing risk. I can see it in my fasting glucose levels and hAIC tests. One stop shopping. Again, the mainstream American Diabetics Association and mainstream will recommend the very thing that will keep glucose high, just throw meds at it and eat all the processed carbs. Again, not holding my breath that things will get turned around quick. For the right thing to be done, there will have to be changes in recommendations at a higher level. Until then, I monitor my glucose at home. Quickly and quietly. No need to develop type 2 diabetes and fall out of weight maintenance. My doc wouldn't have treated me until I developed the disease. Sadness there. Glad that I can home monitor.

      Time and more clinical trials should help. Obesity is not an exact science, but new advances should help. Gut bacteria play part too ( recent recommendations around c. difficile treatments have shown gut bacterial can drive obesity in previously normal weight patients.).

      Just sitting here on weight maintenance island. Waiting. Patiently. Cheering people like Dr. Berkeley, Dr. Tarman, Dr. Peeke and other MD's that actually get results with their patients.

    2. RE: diabetes recs.

      I was just in the hospital for a couple of days (Total Thyroidectomy. They were told that I had diabetes and gluten intolerance. Here were my meals: Dinner first day: unbreaded fish, mashed potatoes, a GF brownie and 1/2 c ice cream. (Full sugar) along with fat free milk. :o

      I spoke with the dietary dept. They assured me that dinner was only 4 servings of carbohydrate. I skipped the potatoes & milk, anyway. *Yes, I ate the brownie and I.C.) Three hours after dinner? My glucose was 307.

      Breakfast? Eggs, GF waffle w/ SF syrup, 1 CUP of cream of rice cereal, skim milk, fake butter, SF yogurt. Seriously. I guess the skim milk and fake butter makes it all good. I was able to order my own lunch.

    3. I can't even count how many times I have left the comment - "talk to your medical staff about what you need to do to eliminate diabetes instead of managing it" on blogs. Their chances of having medical people who know how to do that are slim, but I still say it.

      The whole subject of nutritionists makes me a little crazy. I have asked (one who did seem to know, but was still giving terrible advice) WHY? And she responded that people are not going to do what they need to do, so there is just no point.

  4. Truth, Vickie!!!! So many with metabolic disease that continue to not monitor and get a food template that will put metabolic disease into long term remission. Instead, it's moderate all the stuff that is the root cause.

    Deb, be sure to check Amy Myers, MD. She's got great thyroid resources. She also had her thyroid removed some time ago. Good luck.