The DNA of your Christmas dinner

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The DNA of your Christmas dinner

December 5, 2018

Christmastime…it’s finally here! With the yummy aromas of a turkey roasting, mince pies baking and gingerbread wafting in the air, it’s almost time to sit up for your Christmas Day dinner. But what things do you choose to pile on your plate?

Growing up, you may have learned to like the foods you were given, but did you know that your genetics also play a role in your taste preferences and how your body reacts to those foods?

So, let’s explore how your DNA impacts your festive diet and how to make healthier choices...

Feeling stuffed?

During the holiday period, we typically eat three times more than our recommended daily calories! That’s between 6,000-7,500 calories per day…

So, if you’re finding yourself always overeating, it might be down to your DNA. A certain genetic marker called DRD2 can make you associate food with self-rewarding, so you end up going back for seconds, thirds…, fourths…

Sound like you? Whilst the occasional overindulgence is okay, it can make you feel pretty rubbish if it’s a regular thing. Read our tips for managing overeating all year-round.

And here’s our tips for controlling how much you eat at Christmas:

  1. Fill up in the morning

    With all the chaotic excitement of present-opening, travelling around, and prepping dinner, it can be so easy to forget to eat anything on Christmas morning. You may even just gobble down a mince pie or sweets, which will spike your blood sugar… And that means by lunchtime, you’ll be absolutely ravenous – and may eat more than you really can manage. Avoid this with a hearty and healthy bowl of porridge. Doesn’t sound very exciting? Festiv-ify your breakfast with a sprinkle or cinnamon, mincemeat or cranberry sauce! What about five other healthy breakfast choices?
  2. Keep track

    It can be so easy to keep scoffing things during Christmas parties, snacking on nuts, truffles and other buffet food. Whenever you get a minute, just jot down what you’ve eaten in a diary or on your phone. That’ll help you curb unnecessary overindulgence.
  3. Hydrate yourself

    Throughout the day, keep guzzling down water. You’ll avoid a hangover whilst also satiating hunger –bonus!
  4. Half fruit/veg

    When it comes to constructing the perfectly nutritious Christmas dinner, fill half your plate with fruit or vegetables. You can still enjoy the food, but without that dreaded after-dinner bloat.

Letting it go to waist…

There’re several genes linked to your consumption of saturated fats. Having increased sensitivity to saturated fats can mean that all that goose fat, brandy butter and Yorkshire puddings could lead to significant weight gain. And you could gain it quicker than people without that specific gene too…

Christmas isn’t generally the time for lowering your fat or calorie intake. But if you’re more sensitive to saturated fat and you’re watching your weight, we’ve got some healthier swaps for this year’s Xmas dinner…

  • Swap butter for avocado spread on bread
  • Switch beef or lamb for lean meats like turkey and chicken
  • Use vegetable oils instead of animal-based fats to cook your veg and potatoes in
  • Choose fruit-based desserts instead of heavy, stodgier puds

Milking it

Cheese and crackers after your dinner? What about a milky coffee with some chocolates? A protein called lactase helps us digest the lactose in these foods. However, many people are less likely to produce this protein because of their genetics –and this means they’ll struggle to fully digest dairy and egg products.

If you’re lactose intolerant, the lactose moves past the stomach and into the lower intestine. Here, bacteria feast on the sugar and release gases which can lead to bloating, vomiting, nausea and digestive discomfort. More than enough reason to skip on the eggnog!

In some cases, you might have an inherited change in the DNA coding for the MCM6 gene which means you’ll tolerate lactose quite well!

Not for me!

People with the ‘C’ variant of the TAS2R38 gene are sensitive to bitter tastes (found in Brussels sprouts, broccoli and cabbage). If you usually turn your nose up at these cruciferous veggies, you may tend to mask their bitter flavours with salty foods.

Do you pile your plate high with pigs in blankets, bacon or cheesy sauces? Be careful! You might be covering up your hatred for sprouts to the detriment of your sodium levels! Make sure you’re not going above 6g of salt per day.

But if you’re asking to pass around the sprouts, you might be ‘taste blind’ to these bitter tastes. Good for you! They’re really healthy – high in fibre and iron!

Got a sweet tooth?

Candy canes,chocolate truffles and mince pies… not to mention sugary hot drinks. There’re tons of sweet temptations at Christmastime. Certain variants of the SLC2A2 gene are associated with different levels of sugar intake.

If you find yourself reaching for the sweet cupboard over savoury snacks, you might crave sugar more than most people… But what does this mean for your health? Finding out about your genetic taste preferences could give you an idea of your risk of developing type 2 diabetes.

Get bready!

Roasties are the mainstay of a good Christmas dinner. But should you be cutting down on how many you pile onto your plate at the carvery?

Everyone breaks down carbs differently. For some who don’t metabolise carbohydrates as quickly, you may be advised to try low-GI carbs like brown bread and sweet potatoes.

Going red in the face?

After you’ve had a tipple or two at the Christmas party, do you find your face going a bit red? This is called an alcohol flush reaction and it’s almost entirely caused by your genetic makeup.

It’s all to do with how you metabolise alcohol. The slower you process it, the longer it’s in your system and gives you a crimson glow. So, knowing your genetic metabolism can help you better know your limits! If you want to cut down, check out our tips for managing your drinking habits.

Want to know more about your genetics?

As well as information on your food preferences, you can get tailored recommendations on what foods, exercises and skincare routines suit your body and its metabolism.Discover the inner you and order a DNA test today.

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References

Chen et al. (1999) .“Interaction between the functional polymorphisms of the alcohol-metabolism genes in protection against alcoholism.” Am J Hum Genet 65:795-807.

 

Corella D et al. (2009) . “APOA2, dietary fat, and body mass index: replication of a gene-diet interaction in 3 ndependent populations.” Arch Intern Med 169(20):1897-906.

 

Dupuis J et al. (2010) . “New genetic loci implicated in fasting glucose homeostasis and their impact on type 2 diabetes risk.” Nature genetics 42(2):105-16.

 

Eny, K.M. et al. (2008) . “Genetic variant in the glucose transporter type 2 is associated with higher intakes of sugars in two distinct populations.” Physiological Genomics, 33(3).355-60.

 

Epstein LH et al. (2006) . “Food Reinforcement.” Appetite 46, 22-5.

 

Hayes JE et al. (2010) . “Explaining Variability In Sodium Intake Through Oral Sensory Phenotype, Salt Sensation And Liking.” Physiology& Behavior 100,369-80.

 

Itan et al. (2011) . “A worldwide correlation of lactase persistence phenotype and genotypes.” BMC Evol Biol 10:36.

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