HSN – New research on nutrigenetics, MIND diet, saturated fat

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Health Scoop News 📑 – Nutrigenetics, MIND diet, saturated fats

I always have my nose in new health research, so I’m sharing some of the most relevant studies with you in regular editions of “Health Scoop News.”

[This news summary is a bit reminiscent of my old “This week in science for holistic health” newsletters that I used to do circa 2016 (I deleted most, but here’s one post I kept live), as well as the rEATsearch podcast I used to co-host.]

These are my top three study picks (comment below to tell me what health topics/niches are best for you!). All are very high quality studies (most are studies that review and analyze data from several previous studies, not just one or two).

These studies were all published in the past month or so.

1 – The future of nutrigenetics (how to make *even more* accurate personalized recommendations when it comes to obesity)

Study title: A genomics perspective of personalized prevention and management of obesity

This is a review of several previous studies. The “present review primarily addresses the use of GRSs and PRSs rather than individual SNPs because the former offer a more comprehensive approach to the management of obesity by combining multiple SNPs linked to BMI.

Here’s some background info:

  • Genetic risk scores (GRSs) – Comprise tens or hundreds of ‘at-risk’ genetic variants.
  • Polygenic risk scores (PRS) – The weighted sum of thousands or millions of trait-associated alleles.
  • Single nucleotide polymorphisms (SNPs) – Genetic variants in DNA.
  • There are many causes of overweight and obesity, including changes in the availability and consumption of foods (obesogenic environment), as well as genetics. Studies show that 40-77% of obesity may be inheritable.
  • Genome-wide association studies (GWASs) have provided valuable insights into genetic variants associated with body mass index (BMI), a proxy for obesity, as well as other adiposity traits, such as the waist-to-hip ratio . . .”
  • Nutrigenetics, a clade of Genetics, explores the role of genetic variation in individual responses to dietary components, offering tremendous potential for the personalized nutritional management of obesity and other diet-related pathologies.”
  • One-size-fits-all approaches do not account for the diverse responses.”
  • “Different protein sources (vegetable versus animal), specific sugars (simple or complex), amino acids and fatty acids [saturated (SFA), monounsaturated (MUFA), polyunsaturated (PUFA), or trans] are metabolized differently depending on one’s unique genetic background.

Note from Leesa: GRSs and PRSs consider dozens, hundreds, or thousands of SNPs to get a wider view of how someone’s own genetics can impact their risk of getting or managing obesity (how it can impact that 40-77% of obesity that is heritable). Instead of looking at one or a few individual nucleotides/SNPs, they look at so many more to come up with more accurate and personalized dietary and lifestyle recommendations for a particular client.

Here are a few points about obesity and carbs:

  • Individuals with high GRSs were more susceptible to increased BMI when consuming sugar-sweetened beverages than were those with low GRSs for obesity.”
  • Notably, unlike GRSs, which encompass tens of genetic variants, the significance of single SNPs in modifying body weight in relation to carbohydrate intake has been less evident.”
  • Thus, genetic data should be taken into consideration when tailoring carbohydrate consumption for weight loss.”

Here are a few points about obesity and fats:

  • In addition to quantity, the quality of fat consumed may influence the genetic predisposition to obesity in a manner that may lead to different body weight outcomes.”
  • Ongoing research indicates that various forms of dietary fat may induce epigenetic changes that could differ among genotypes.

Here are a few points about obesity and proteins:

  • “Several lines of evidence suggest that protein intake may have different effects on body weight depending on the genetic background.
  • “Considering the aforementioned caveats of high-protein consumption in body weight management, genetics could offer opportunities for optimizing benefits while minimizing potential drawbacks.”

Here are a few points about obesity and specialized foods and supplements:

  • Coffee – “Coffee consumption may contribute to counteracting the influence of genetic factors on weight-related outcomes, particularly among fast caffeine metabolizers.”
  • Green tea – “Green tea polyphenols, specifically catechins, have shown promise in promoting reductions in body weight and improvements in lipid profiles.”
  • Vitamin D – “Vitamin D has been linked to the regulation of insulin secretion and activity, countering the effects of certain obesity-related genetic factors.
  • Polyphenol-rich cloudy apple juice (CloA) – “Individuals with the C/C genotype experienced a substantial decrease in body fat after 4 weeks of CloA consumption.”

Here are a few points about obesity and lifestyle changes:

  • Physical activity – “Numerous studies indicate that individuals genetically predisposed to obesity may exhibit a diminished response to exercise.”
  • Type of physical activity – “The choice of exercise emerges as a pivotal factor in weight management and overall health promotion.”
  • Mis-timed eating – Meal timing helped people with certain genetics lose weight, but those with different genetics had no impact, “further underscoring interindividual variability in weight loss outcomes influenced by genetics and meal timing. . . . Eating the right time for some individuals may be more challenging but more crucial for their weight management and overall health.”

A concluding statement from the researchers:

  • Integrating data on actionable genomic variants with lifestyle recommendations and specialized interventions holds immense potential for enhancing the precision of personalized prevention and management strategies.

In other words, according to this reviewongoing research into nutrigenetics of SNPs is even more powerful when dozens, hundreds, or thousands of SNPs are looked at together, creating GRSs (genetic risk scores) or PRSs (polygenic risk scores). We’ve learned a lot about nutrigenetics in the past few years, and there is so much more to know so that we can personalize nutrition recommendations for even greater client success. The researchers predict that, “precision nutrition is expected to overcome current bottlenecks in the management of diet-related pathologies and become a ‘mainstay of medical care’ by the year 2030.”

Note from Leesa: Of course, eating a variety of nutritious foods and exercising are going to promote health for just about everyone, regardless of their genetics. The point of this particular study is to show that these healthy habits will help some people prevent and manage obesity more than it will help others, and part of this difference is due to a person’s genetics (even though these may help everybody to some extent).

Note from Leesa: This looks like a fascinating, new area of research—and much more research is needed. Future studies will determine how strong this science is and how powerful (or not) this could be to really personalize nutrition recommendations and help people reach their health goals.

Question from Leesa: If you are using a nutrigenetic or nutrigenomic program with clients, are the companies aware of the potential power of GRSs and PRSs? Are they following this type of research and have plans to start incorporating GRSs and PRSs into their offerings for your practice? If not, why not? I’m so curious as to how this exciting new research is going to be used to improve health!

2 – More evidence for the MIND diet for dementia, memory, and cognition

Study title: The Mediterranean-Dietary Approaches to Stop Hypertension Intervention for Neurodegenerative Delay Diet for the Aging Brain: A Systematic Review

This is a systematic review (a thorough and objective scientific review) of 40 previous studies that looked at the impact of the MIND diet on brain outcomes (cognitive performance, cognitive decline, incidence of any type of dementia or Parkinson’s disease, or brain volume and pathology outcomes) in people over the age of 40.

Here’s some background info:

  • As it is not possible to completely stop brain aging or cure age-related brain diseases, there is increasing interest in preventive strategies to ensure optimal brain aging. Nutrition is considered an important lifestyle factor that can influence the brain aging trajectory. . . . Indeed, evidence for dietary patterns is stronger than that for single nutrients and foods.”
  • A dietary pattern that seems promising is the Mediterranean-Dietary Approaches to Stop Hypertension (DASH) Intervention for Neurodegenerative Delay (MIND) diet, which is specifically developed to preserve brain function during aging. The MIND diet is a hybrid of the Mediterranean and DASH diets and further emphasizes intake of food groups with neuroprotective properties, including berries and leafy green vegetables.”

The purpose of this particular study was . . .

  • 1) to give an updated overview on the MIND diet in relation to cognitive functioning, cognitive decline, and dementia risk and
  • 2) to extend this overview to other brain aging outcomes, including neuroimaging and pathology outcomes and incidence of other age-related neurodegenerative diseases.

The researchers found:

  • “The majority of studies indicated that the MIND diet reduces risk of all-cause dementia and AD” (Alzheimer’s disease).
  • The evidence for the protective associations of the MIND diet with cognition, however, is more mixed.”
  • Protective associations could be expected as the MIND diet is rich in all nutrients considered relevant for healthy brain aging.”
    • Polyphenols and antioxidants from berries and vegetables
    • vitamin E from nuts and olive oil have anti-inflammatory, antioxidant, and/or vascular health-promoting properties
    • ω-3 fatty acids from fish also possess these properties and act as building block for neurons
    • B vitamins from leafy greens, whole grains, and poultry maintain homocysteine levels.
  • Our findings, however, do not conclusively prove the benefits of the MIND diet for brain aging,” but does summarize a lot of the evidence showing it can help many people’s global cognition and also reduce their risks of getting dementia in the first place.

Note from Leesa: I didn’t know exactly what “global cognition” was, so I looked it up in the studies included in this review. It’s based on tests used to evaluate a person’s memory, language, visuospatial functioning, etc. (all of these contribute to a persons “global cognition”). Here are some examples of how this was measured:

  • Three items: (1) immediate and delayed recall of 10 words from a word list randomly assigned for each participant, (2) backward counting, and, (3) serial seven subtraction
  • Using a Mini-Mental State Examination (MMSE), which is a questionnaire commonly used to screen for dementia
  • Language tests that may include naming or categorizing items
  • Drawing clocks or copying figures

Here’s what the researchers of this review concluded:

  • This systematic review provides observational evidence for protective associations between the MIND diet and global cognition and dementia risk . . .

In other words, many (observational) studies show that eating a nutritious diet such as the MIND diet, helps to improve “global cognition” and reduce the risk of dementia and Alzheimer’s disease.

For a list of dozens of credible sites to find health information, plus some PubMed tips, download your free guide here:


3 – Saturated fats are not great for cancer risk (but they *may not* cause cancer)

Study title: Association of saturated fatty acids with cancer risk: a systematic review and meta-analysis

This is a systematic review and meta-analysis (objective scientific review and statistical analysis that combines data from several previous studies on one topic). In this case, it reviewed and analyzed data from 55 clinical studies that looked at links between saturated fat intake/blood levels and cancer risk.

Here’s some background info:

  • Extensive research has explored the link between saturated fatty acids (SFAs) and cardiovascular diseases, alongside other biological dysfunctions.”
  • Cancer is a complex disease arising due to interactions between genetic and environmental factors. The prevalent environmental risk factors for cancer include smoking, radiation, and alcohol consumption, which contribute significantly to tumor onset.”
  • The ever-increasing preference for fried food, red meat, and smoked food has led to nutritional imbalances in individuals, which has significantly jeopardized the levels of health in the population.”
  • SFAs are the primary influencers of plasma cholesterol levels and are, therefore, extensively studied in the context of cardiovascular health. Certain subtypes of SFAs have been demonstrated to play biological roles in the promotion of inflammation.”

Here’s what the researchers conclude:

  • Increased total SFA levels correlated with higher risks of breast, prostate, and colorectal cancers, but not with lung, pancreatic, ovarian, or stomach cancers.”
  • There are two ways that saturated fatty acids were determined in these studies: 1) Total SFAs in the bloodstream and 2) excessive dietary intake. As either of these increased, so did the risk of developing certain cancers.
  • The present meta-analysis revealed that an excessive dietary intake of total SFAs increases the risk of cancer, although this does not imply that SFAs are invariably detrimental.” Because this study can only determine correlation (not causation), other factors to be considered that need more research are:
    • Other compounds in the SFA-rich food may be more of a problem than the SFA itself, e.g., the heme and Neu5GC in red meat may be worse for colon cancer risk than the SFA.
    • The issue may also be the type of SFA, for example, “SFAs such as C14:0 and C18:0 were positively associated with cancer risk.”
    • Obesity may be another confounding variable that is linked with both SFA levels and cancer risk.

In other words, people who have higher levels of saturated fatty acids also tend to have higher risk for a few cancers (breast, prostate, colorectal), but not all cancers (not lung, pancreatic, ovarian, or stomach). This links doesn’t prove that SFAs *cause* cancer (they might), but it can’t rule out other factors related to SFAs that may also contribute to cancer (e.g., heme in meat, obesity from eating a lot of foods with SFAs, etc.)


Signing off and toasting: To keeping up with the latest and greatest scientific research in nutrition, fitness, and health coaching!


Over to you


Do you have a specific question about any of these new studies?

Are you looking for a easy-to-understand study summary that you can share with your audience and clients?

What health topic/niche is most important to you?

Let me know in the comments below!


What's the latest health research for your nutrition, fitness, or health coaching practice?

Find out in the weekly Health Scoop News 📑email updates. See some of the latest studies (with Leesa's "in other words" explainers) here. Sign up if you want to be first to know new research:

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I'm Leesa Klich, MSc., R.H.N.
Health writer – Blogging expert – Research nerd.

I help health and wellness professionals build their authority with scientific health content. They want to stand out in the crowded, often unqualified, market of entrepreneurs. I help them establish trust with their audiences, add credibility to their services, and save them a ton of time so they don’t have to do the research or writing themselves. To work with me, click here.


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