HealthDay News — Improving adherence to healthy dietary patterns may help reduce the genetic association with weight gain, according to a study published online in the British Medical Journal.

Tiange Wang, PhD, from Tulane University in New Orleans, and colleagues conducted a prospective cohort study to examine whether adherence to healthy dietary patterns interacts with the genetic predisposition to obesity. Data were included for 8828 women from the Nurses’ Health Study and 5218 men from the Health Professionals Follow-Up Study, who were followed from 1986 to 2006.

The researchers found that in the Nurses’ Health Study and the Health Professionals Follow-up Study, the genetic association with change in body mass index during follow-up was significantly attenuated with increasing adherence to the Alternate Healthy Eating Index 2010 (AHEI-2010). Per 10 risk allele increment, the 4-year changes in body mass index were 0.07 among participants with decreased AHEI-2010 score and −0.01 among those with increased AHEI-2010 score, which corresponded to a weight change of 0.16 vs −0.02 kg every 4 years in the combined cohorts. Among participants with low, intermediate, and high genetic risk, changes in body mass index per 1 standard deviation increment of AHEI-2010 score were −0.12, −0.14, and −0.18, respectively (weight changes of −0.35, −0.36, and −0.50 kg, respectively).

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“The beneficial effect of improved diet quality on weight management was particularly pronounced in people at high genetic risk for obesity,” the authors write.

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Wang T, Heianza Y, Sun D, et al. Improving adherence to healthy dietary patterns, genetic risk, and long term weight gain: gene-diet interaction analysis in two prospective cohort studies.  BMJ. 2018;360:j5644.