Is It Safe to Stay on Keto Long-Term? Here are Nine Genes That Impact Your Keto Diet Success

Have you tried the keto diet and felt tired and sluggish instead of energetic and clear-minded? Did you struggle with getting your ketones high enough to stay in ketosis? How will your LDL cholesterol and triglyceride levels be impacted by being on a high-fat diet for an extended period of time?

Whether you’re just getting started on the keto diet or have been on the keto diet for a while now, this is the article for you. We believe it is essential to understand how your body may respond to high amounts of fat and where your genes may need added support on a ketogenic diet.

By studying epigenetics, we now understand the role genetics play in why we respond to specific foods a certain way and why the same diet may yield entirely different results across individuals.

For example, some may struggle with breaking down fats into ketones to use as energy. Others may need to reduce their saturated fat intake due to increased risks of plaquing, cardiovascular disease or stroke.

Having the data to navigate how your body may respond to a ketogenic diet can be incredibly beneficial to set yourself up for success and prevent the risk of developing unfavourable health outcomes later down the road.

This article will explore nine genes that impact your keto diet success and how you can personalize your keto diet to optimize your results.

Nine Genes That Impact Your Keto Diet Success (and what you can do about it)

#1 – APOE4: The cholesterol gene 

What it does: 

The APOE gene is involved in making a protein that helps carry cholesterol and other types of fat in the bloodstream. In addition, it is believed that the APOE gene may influence the accumulation of a protein named amyloid beta, linked to an inherited form of heart disease, high cholesterol and Alzheimer’s disease.

Where to find it on your report: 

dietPower Dietary Saturated Fat, dietPower LDL Cholesterol, brainPower Alzheimer’s, brainPower Concussion

How it impacts your keto diet: 

Studies have shown cognitive improvements in those with Alzheimer’s disease when they go on a ketogenic diet. Individuals with Alzheimer’s disease have an impaired ability to use glucose as energy in their brain and, in contrast, are much more efficient at using ketones as energy instead.

However, it appears that the positive therapeutic effects of a ketogenic diet are weaker in those with APOE4 variations. Therefore, those with APOE4 variations may not reap the same benefits from a keto diet as those without the APOE4 alleles.

How to support it:

  1. Focus on limiting the amount of saturated fat to less than 22% of your daily calories. The majority of your fat intake should be from unsaturated fats.
  2. Eat a plant-based diet to avoid saturated fats from animal sources like milk, yogurt, cream, cheese, red meat, and lard.
  3. Focus on increasing omega-3 fatty acids from foods such as fatty fish (wild-caught salmon, sardine, mackerel), flaxseed oil, walnuts, and spirulina.
  4. Avoid all vegetable oils because of their inflammatory properties (a known risk factor for increased plaquing of blood vessels). Typical vegetable oils include soybean oil, sunflower oil, canola oil, cottonseed oil, and corn oil. Foods that contain vegetable oil include margarine, vegetable shortening, chips, store-bought crackers and pastries, fried foods like fries and chicken wings, and some salad dressings.

#2 Gene – FADS1: Your need for Omega-3

What it does: 

The FADS1 gene is responsible for the synthesis of omega-3 long-chain fatty acids.

Where to find it on your report: 

dietPower Omega-3 Fatty Acid and dietPower HDL Cholesterol

How it impacts your keto diet: 

Individuals with the FADS1 gene variant should be cautious with saturated fat intake. With reduced genetic function in converting saturated fats into unsaturated fats, a high saturated fat diet may lead to poor implications on metabolism, cholesterol level, triglycerides, inflammation and neurological health.

How to support it: 

  1. Increase your intake of polyunsaturated fats like sustainable and wild salmon, herring, mackerel, sardine, avocado, and spirulina, free of contaminants.
  2. Consider taking an omega-3 fish oil supplement in triglyceride form for superior absorption or an algae supplement for vegans.
  3. Check and monitor your EPA/DHA levels regularly – ideally before you begin your ketogenic diet and three months after to detect immediate changes in your body. Once your bloodwork has normalized, check every 6 to 12 months for maintenance.

#3 Gene – FUT2: The B12 regulator

What it does: 

The FUT2 gene is related to gut microbiome health and enzyme levels in your gut lining that influence the concentration of B12 in your blood.

Where to find it on your report: 

dietPower Vitamin B12, healthPower Methylation – FUT2

How it impacts your keto diet: 

Low diversity of fruits and vegetables on a ketogenic diet may lead to poor microbiome health, which will affect how well fats are absorbed and B12 levels. On the other hand, low B12 levels can result in a potential buildup of fatty acids and triglycerides, leading to insulin resistance and abnormal blood lipid levels.

How to support it: 

  1. Focus on eating probiotic foods at least three times a week to introduce healthy bacteria into the gut. Low-carb probiotic foods include fermented vegetables like sauerkraut and kimchi prepared in salt and water brine only, aged hard cheese, cottage cheese, and tempeh.
  2. Focus on eating prebiotic foods every day to improve gut microbiome health. Low-carb prebiotic foods include asparagus, tomatoes, avocado, Jerusalem artichoke, apples, berries, garlic, onions, and leeks.
  3. If you have variations in this gene, focus on getting B12 from animal-based sources like wild-caught fish, grass-fed meat, pasture-raised poultry, eggs, and dairy. If you are on a plant-based/vegan diet, look for foods fortified with B12 or consider supplementation with methylated B12 vitamins.

#4 Gene – PPARA: The gatekeeper to ketosis

What it does:

The PPARA gene mediates fatty acid oxidation, lipid metabolism, and glucose production for energy consumption.

Where to find it on your report: 

fitPower Endurance, fitPower Oxygen Uptake

How it impacts your keto diet: 

It affects your ability to use fats as fuel over carbohydrates, making it harder for you to enter and stay in ketosis.

How to support it: 

  1. You may need to take exogenous ketones to get into a ketogenic state.
  2. Regularly check your ketone levels to see if you are in ketosis or not.
  3. Monitor your cholesterol panel frequently – HDL, LDL, triglyceride – as this may be associated with higher triglyceride and cholesterol levels.
  4. Focus on getting your fats from polyunsaturated fats such as walnuts, flaxseed, flaxseed oil and chia seeds.

#5 Gene – ACLS1: Saturated fat metabolism

What it does: 

The ACLS1 gene plays a vital role in saturated fat metabolism and triacylglycerol (TAG) synthesis.

Where to find it on your report: 

dietPower Saturated Fat, dietPower Omega-3 Fatty Acid

How it impacts your keto diet: 

May increase your chances of developing metabolic syndrome and insulin resistance on a high-fat diet, particularly with high saturated fat intake. Typical foods consumed on a keto diet, such as bacon/butter/coconut fat bombs/MCT oil, are high in saturated fat. However, polyunsaturated fats seem to have the opposite effect and exert a protective effect on metabolic syndrome.

How to support it: 

  1. Focus on reducing saturated fats from animal-based sources like lard, cheese, butter. Replace it with high amounts of polyunsaturated fats.
  2. Following a Mediterranean-style keto diet with lots of nuts and seeds, olives, and seafood is helpful.

#6 – APOA2: Eat fat, get fat gene

What it does:

The APOA2 gene plays a role in food cravings with higher carbohydrate, protein and saturated fats.

Where to find it on your report: 

dietPower Dietary Saturated Fat

How it impacts your keto diet: 

May impact your ability to lose weight, as well as your hunger hormone balance (ghrelin) in response to high saturated fat intake. In other words, you may end up gaining weight and experience an increased appetite on a high saturated fat diet.

How to support it:

  1. Try to keep saturated fat intake under 22 grams per day.
  2. Counteract the effects of an increased appetite with regular exercise.
  3. If you have a sedentary desk job, try to include exercise breaks throughout the day, such as speed walking, jumping jacks, or yoga.

#7 – FTO: The appetite regulator

What it does: 

The FTO gene encodes the fat mass and obesity-associated protein. Affects the hypothalamus region of the brain, which regulates appetite, energy intake and satiety. Associated with difficulty feeling full and risk of obesity.

Where to find it on your report: 

dietPower Body Mass Index, dietPower Dietary Saturated Fat

How it impacts your keto diet: 

You may feel hungry all the time and find it challenging to regulate the amount of food you’re consuming.

How to support it:

  1. Focus on balancing blood sugar by reducing high glycemic foods (which you should already be doing on a keto diet.)
  2. Exercise regularly to regulate your appetite.
  3. Reduce saturated fat intake to less than 15% of your daily caloric intake.
  4. Be mindful of your hunger signals. Identify whether they are emotional or physical.
  5. Use a food diary to track how you feel after every meal to identify foods or meals that serve/do not serve you.

#8 – TCF7L2: The insulin gene

What it does: 

The TCF7L2 gene regulates blood glucose through insulin. Genetic variations are related to insulin resistance, the risk of developing type 2 diabetes, and increased obesity.

Where to find it on your report: 

dietPower Insulin, dietPower Dietary Unsaturated Fat

How it impacts your keto diet: 

Your body is more sensitive to carbohydrate intake. As a result, you may need to keep your carbohydrate intake extremely low to enter and maintain ketosis. You may also struggle with weight loss on a high-fat diet, as individuals with the TCF7L2 gene variation are observed to have lower body fat and BMI on a low-fat diet.

How to support it: 

  1. Monitor your body’s response to carbohydrate intake. Track your ideal carbohydrate intake amounts to enter and maintain ketosis.
  2. Consider using a glucose monitor to ensure insulin levels are in check.

#9 Gene – MTHFD1: Folate metabolism and choline production

What it does: 

The MTHFD1 gene is responsible for folate metabolism and choline production.

Where to find it on your report: 

dietPower Choline

How it impacts your keto diet: 

Choline is a type of fat crucial for liver function. Without enough choline, the liver may become sluggish in processing the high amounts of fat on a ketogenic diet, eventually leading to a buildup of fatty acids in the liver, potentially developing into non-alcoholic fatty liver. Choline is also vital for gallbladder function, essential for efficient fat metabolism.

How to support it: 

  1. You may need 2x more choline than the average person if you have variations in this gene. Studies recommend an intake of 4 mg to 8 mg of choline intake per kilogram of body weight.
  2. Include healthy dietary sources of choline which is found primarily in animal-based products such as meat, poultry, fish, dairy products, and eggs. Plant-based sources include brussels sprouts, broccoli, cauliflower, soybean and kidney bean.
  3. Consider supplementing with bioavailable alpha-GPC choline if you cannot get enough choline from dietary sources alone.

Key Takeaways

The keto diet offers many health benefits such as weight loss, improved metabolic markers and even brain-protective properties. However, there have been reports of adverse side effects from being on a keto diet long-term, such as raised LDL cholesterol levels. Despite this, others have maintained healthy blood lipid levels on a long-term ketogenic diet.

So, why do some thrive on the keto diet while others struggle even to enter ketosis?

As you can see, there are individual factors such as your genes that impact your keto diet success. We believe genetics play a significant role in how you may respond to different diets, particularly restrictive diets like the ketogenic diet.

DNA testing is a window into your unique body’s strengths, weaknesses and natural preferences for different diets. Use your personalized DNA data to make tailored and informed choices for your health. Understanding your genetic predispositions can set you up for the ultimate keto diet success by making minor yet impactful adjustments to your diet and lifestyle.

Give Yourself The Gift of Health