A good diet can keep us healthy – but are we really in control of what we eat?

18th January 2021 – by Paz García

Your food intake patterns are partly under genetic control, according to the latest research from TwinsUK.

First author Olatz Mompeó-Masachs explained:

“We know from previous twin studies that there is a strong genetic component for specific foods such as coffee and garlic, as well as overall eating habits. Our latest study is the first to show that food and nutrient intake, as measured by nine dietary indices, is also partly under genetic control.”

Researchers can study the quality of an individual’s typical diet by using a type of analysis called ‘dietary indices’. Researchers use dietary indices to understand what foods someone eats and the nutrients provided, compared with recommended guidelines.

The team analysed food questionnaire responses from 2,590 TwinsUK members, using nine commonly used dietary indices.  The researchers studied the degree of similarity among identical twins – who share 100% of their genes – compared with non-identical twins, who share 50% of their genes.

The team found that identical twin pairs were more likely to have similar scores across nine dietary indices compared with non-identical twin pairs. This was the case even when other factors were taken into account, such as body mass index (BMI) and exercise levels. The results indicate that there is a genetic component to food intake patterns.

Senior author Dr Massimo Mangino said:

“Our study represents the first comprehensive investigation of the contributions of genetic and environmental factors to the variation in eating behaviour. It highlights the complex relationship between genetic and environment and may have future implications for public health nutrition campaigns.

“This study used food data from female twins only, with an average age of 58. Future research will need to look at dietary indices across a more varied group of people to see if the same findings hold true.”

Eat yourself slim? Molecules found in plants linked to reduced risk of obesity

6th July 2020 – Paz Garcia

Eating polyphenols improves your gut health and could lead to a lower risk of obesity, according to the latest research from TwinsUK.

Polyphenols are molecules found in in high quantities in foods such as fruits, nuts, tea, coffee, vegetables, olive oil and even red wine.

Previous studies have found that higher polyphenol intake is linked with improved gut bacteria diversity and reduced risk of obesity. It has not been clear however whether these associations are due to the polyphenols themselves or the fibre content of the food.

In this study, the researchers investigated whether polyphenol intake was linked with a reduced risk of obesity independently of fibre content. This builds on other recent work led by Professor Tim Spector on the health effects of polyphenols.

The team analysed gut bacteria data from stool samples and food frequency questionnaires from 1,810 female TwinsUK participants.

They found that higher polyphenol intake was linked with a 20% lower chance of obesity, after accounting for fibre content. This was in part due to increased gut bacteria diversity.

First author Olatz Mompeo explained:

“Our findings highlight the potential importance of polyphenol consumption to keep our gut bacteria happy and our bodies healthy. We now need nutrition trials to test these associations and see if they hold true across different ages in men and women.”

Senior author Dr Cristina Menni said:

“Thank you very much to our selfless twins for regularly filling in food questionnaires and donating stool samples. They may not be the most glamorous of tasks, but they make this health research possible, for everyone’s benefit.”

Mompeo et al. Consumption of stilbenes and flavonoids is linked to reduced risk of obesity independently of fibre intake. Nutrients, 2020.

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