Fried Foods May Be Worse for Some People Than Others, Study Says

The adverse effects of fried foods varies according to a person's genetic makeup.

If you weep when you watch your best friend inhale an entire plate of french fries without gaining an ounce, yet you put on what feels like five pounds after eating just three fried clams, there’s now scientific evidence that says genetics play a larger role in this process than originally thought.

Researchers from Harvard School of Public Health (HSPH), Brigham and Women’s Hospital, and Harvard Medical School have discovered that people with a genetic predisposition to obesity are at a higher risk of obesity and related chronic diseases from eating fried foods than those with a lower genetic risk. The study, which was published March 18 in the British Medical Journal, is the first of its kind to show that the adverse effects of fried foods may vary depending on genetics.

“Our study shows that a higher genetic risk of obesity may amplify the adverse effects of fried food consumption on body weight, and high intakes of fried food may also exacerbate the deleterious genetic effects,” said Lu Qi, lead author and assistant professor in the Department of Nutrition at Harvard School of Public Health, in a report.

According to the report:

The researchers analyzed data from 9,623 women in the Nurses’ Health Study, 6,379 men in the Health Professionals Follow-up Study, and 21,426 women in the Women’s Genome Health Study. Participants filled out food frequency questionnaires that asked how often they ate fried foods both at home and away from home. Body mass index (BMI) and lifestyle factors, such as physical activity, were also assessed. Genetic risk scores were calculated based on genetic variants associated with BMI.

The results showed that regular consumption of fried foods was associated with higher BMI (duh), but the really interesting part is that the study also showed that for people with a greater genetic predisposition to obesity “the association between overconsumption of fried foods and obesity was particularly pronounced.”

So does this mean if you aren’t predisposed you can eat all the fried foods you want? Fat chance. The genetic effect on BMI among those who ate fried foods more than four times a week was about twice as large compared with those who ate those foods less than once a week. So basically, even if you aren’t predisposed, you can change your genetics (and not for the better) if you eat too much fried foods.

“Our findings indicate that genetic risk of obesity could be mitigated by simply changing an eating habit,” said Frank Hu, co-author and professor of nutrition and epidemiology at HSPH. “From a public health point of view, everyone should be encouraged to adopt healthy eating habits, not just those who are genetically susceptible.”