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Here are 5 easy ways to switch off your fat genes.
By Sarah Watts | Illustration: Arcade Studio
Looking at your dad could feel like a mirror into the future. And that’s great if he’s still running 5Ks for fun every weekend. But what if your father is more Dad Bod than Dad God?
If your dad’s on the heavy side, you may wonder if you’re destined to fill those shoes as you grow older, too. And that’s not a far-fetched scenario: After all, there are nearly 100 gene variants linked to obesity—meaning that dear old dad may have passed along a proclivity to portliness along with freckles or slightly-larger-than average nose.
But the good news is, not all these genes are necessarily set in stone. Some of the so-called fat genes can turn off and on depending on your habits and your environment.
Now, you can drop a couple grand on a DNA test to see exactly where you stand, but we’re sure you can find a bunch of other things to do with that kind of cash. Instead, put away your wallet—and try these smart strategies to hack your DNA and turn off your fat switch instead.
1. DEPEND ON PROTEIN
Chicken, eggs, and other protein-rich foods are more than just muscle builders. A 2014 study published in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition found that people who carry a variant of the FTO gene linked with higher obesity risk had less appetite and fewer cravings when they ate a low-calorie diet with 25 percent protein. Protein fills you up and requires more energy to digest than other nutrients do, says study author Dr. George Bray,of Pennington Biomedical Research Center.
Hit the switch: Include at least one protein-rich component, like chicken, eggs, or cottage cheese, in every meal and snack. “Spreading protein intake throughout the day helps your body best utilise it for function and rebuilding after exercise,” says dietitian Rebecca Clyde.
Related: How Protein Turns Into Muscle
2. EAT EARLY IN THE DAY
Your body runs on an internal clock, which is why you feel like crap when you wake up at the wrong time. This clock ticks in every cell of your body and influences your metabolism as well as your sleep habits. A 2016 study in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition found that overweight people who carried a certain variant of the PLIN1 gene associated with obesity lost more weight when they ate lunch earlier in the day. And the earlier they took that midday meal, the better the results.
Hit the switch: Eat breakfast and don’t work through lunch. There’s a simple way to determine how many kilojoules to consume for breakfast and morning snacks, says diet expert Dina D’Alessandro. Count the hours between breakfast and lunch on a typical day and multiply by 100.
3. INCREASE YOUR WORKLOAD
Take a cue from the Amish on this one. In a landmark study of an Old Order Amish community, researchers from the University of Maryland concluded that a lifestyle with abundant physical work may help offset the impact of carrying risky variants of the FTO gene. The most active men in this community burn about an extra 3800 kilojoules a day, thanks to several hours of farming, carpentry, blacksmithing, and other activities—and this basically overrides that genetic demerit.
Hit the switch: You don’t have to live on a farm to be as active as the Amish. There are many ways to log an extra 3800 kilojoules a day. For example, walk briskly for 13 kilometres over about two hours. Or try to run 10 kilometres in an hour. Or cycle to work for 50 minutes each way.
4. GO MEDITERRANEAN
A variant of a gene called MC4R predisposes its carriers to obesity and type 2 diabetes. But there’s hope: A Mediterranean-style diet may cancel out that increased genetic risk, recent research suggests. This famously healthy (and delicious!) diet is rich in olive oil, fish, poultry, fruits, vegetables, legumes, and nuts. An occasional glass of red wine is perfectly okay. The fibre and antioxidants prevalent in the diet seem to fight fat and improve glucose metabolism. Ciao bella!
Hit the switch: As you eat more Mediterranean foods, think about the tasty stuff you’re adding, not what you’re missing (like processed foods). When you begin, focus on eating quality meals, not counting kilojoules. Log your food for the first few weeks to stick to it, says diet expert Erin Peisach.
5. GUZZLE GREEN TEA
This beverage might boost the activity of several genes that regulate metabolism, like one known as GLUT4. In a 12-week study period, rats fed a high-fat diet plus green tea showed greater GLUT4 expression than rats fed the same diet with water. In humans, green tea antioxidants have been shown to improve blood sugar control. But take note: Researchers who study tea typically don’t add sugar or cream.
Hit the switch: Drink a glass a day. Try regular Lipton Pure Green Tea, which had the most antioxidants per bag in a ConsumerLab test. Steep green tea at 85 degrees Celsius for three minutes. This maximises both flavour and antioxidant content, a Turkish study suggests.
Related: Will Your Child Be Fat?
Originally published on menshealth.com