Each person’s body is unique and finding a diet that works is difficult. The safest approach is to use science as the basis for your decision, no matter which diet you’re considering trying out for yourself.
The blood type diet is growing in popularity but often gets confused with eating for your genes. In this article, we’re covering the main differences between the two. You need to understand the pros and cons of each so you can make an informed decision.
What Is the Blood Type Diet?
In a book by Dr. Peter D'Adamo called Eat Right 4 Your Type, he states the optimal diet for any one individual depends on that person's ABO blood type. Dr. D’Adamo claims that each blood type represents genetic traits that our ancestors evolved to thrive on. Elements of this diet suggest that your blood type can help you determine which foods are best for your health. People with the type O blood type, for example, are supposedly descended from hunter-gatherers, and therefore require more protein than other blood types.
Dr. D’Adamo recommends four different diets based on the four types of blood: type A, type B, type AB, and type O. The type A diet resembles a vegetarian diet, while the type O diet is a high-protein diet that resembles something closer to the paleo diet. The other two are somewhere in between.
How Does the Blood Type Diet Work?
One of the theories behind the blood type diet has to do with proteins called lectins, a family of proteins that can bind sugar molecules. These substances are considered antinutrients, and for some people, they may have negative effects on the lining of the gut.1,2
According to the blood type diet theory, various lectins found in a person’s diet can specifically target different ABO blood types. This philosophy claims that eating the wrong types of lectins could lead to agglutination—or clumping together—of red blood cells.
However, studies show that most agglutinating lectins react with all ABO blood types. This means that lectins in the diet are not actually blood-type specific, with the exception of a few varieties of raw legumes.1 And even those legumes may not actually be dangerous, as most legumes are soaked or cooked before consumption, which subsequently destroys the harmful lectins.
Benefits of the Blood Type Diet
On the plus side, all four diets encourage focusing on real, unprocessed ingredients. For many people, consuming whole foods may be a step in the right direction toward eating healthier.
Disadvantages of the Blood Type Diet
A downside of the blood type diet is that there is not much scientific evidence to support the connections between different foods and blood types in this diet. It can also be quite restrictive, and D’Adamo’s book recommends pricey organic foods along with his line of expensive supplements. Additionally, this diet fails to take into consideration other factors such as environment or diagnosed medical conditions like heart disease and diabetes.
What Does Eating for Your Genes Entail?
Eating for your genes, on the other hand, means that you use your DNA as a science-backed guide for what you eat based on how you metabolize certain macronutrients, micronutrients, and substances.3 It, too, is focused on eating as an individual—for your body, in particular—but let’s look more closely at the most important distinguishing factors between the two diets.
How Does Eating for Your Genes Work?
You are one of a kind. Our bodies each have at least slightly varying needs, as we all respond differently to the world around us and metabolize nutrients differently. Studies say we can personalize nutrition instead of taking a one-size-fits-all approach, and that this can be done by taking a look at our individual genetic variations.4
These genetic variants and their outcomes have been thoroughly researched. Once we know our genetic variations, we can have a better idea of which foods can provide us the maximum benefit.5 For example, you may have a genetic variant that indicates a hindered ability to convert beta-carotene to active vitamin A. So it may be helpful to consume more vitamin A-rich foods—such as seafood, full-fat milk or fortified dairy products, fortified cereals, and organ meats like liver.6
Benefits of Eating for Your Genes
Why is the concept of eating a DNA-based diet such an inventive discovery? Because the innovative nature of nutrigenomics creates a science-based roadmap for us when it comes to our food choices. With information about your genetic makeup, you can zero in on ingredients that are beneficial to your body and stay away from ones that might not agree with you as well as they do with someone else. Results are personalized to you—not to mainstream fad diets, what your friends are doing, or whatever is popular at the moment.
Nutrigenomics gives us the insight we need to make specific, thoughtful, and strategic choices about what we put into our bodies to prevent chronic diseases and gain optimal nutrition. With this expert guidance, we don’t have to continue to make guesses at what our bodies are trying to tell us. Essentially, when we can’t figure out what it is our bodies want, our genes give us the code.
DNA testing companies like GenoPalate will translate that code into something plain and simple that everyone can use to get their health goals—and ultimately, lives—back on track. Once you fully understand how nutrition affects your genes, you will be able to make truly informed decisions on how to choose foods that will give you the most “bang for your buck,” nutritionally speaking.
Disadvantages of Eating for Your Genes
The biggest shortcoming that comes with eating for your genes is that DNA test reports do not account for epigenetics or medical conditions. Thus, you should combine the eating for your genes method with any additional medical information you have—such as blood test results—to determine your ideal diet. We recommend working with your healthcare provider to fill in any missing pieces so you end up with a holistic plan and know exactly how to achieve your health and wellness goals.
How to Determine the Right Way to Eat for Your Body
When choosing between the blood type diet and eating for your genes, think about which approach is going to be more sustainable and realistic for life-long changes. And keep in mind that the alleged success of the blood type diet may be related to eliminating processed foods from your diet, not necessarily eating for your blood type.
While some people say they feel great while on the blood type diet, it lacks supporting evidence, whereas a genetic approach is highly evidence-based. Therefore, when it comes time to make your decision, you must consider which foods are best for you and your body alone.
The first step to educating yourself is getting a real taste of one of the diet methods before jumping in full force. To do so, check out this FREE resource to see what personalized nutrition based on your DNA might look like and what it can do for you! You may be surprised at how fast you start to see results when you select the right path for your body and what makes you unique.
1. Wang J, García-Bailo B, Nielsen DE, El-Sohemy A. ABO Genotype, ‘Blood-Type’ Diet and Cardiometabolic Risk Factors. PLoS ONE. 2014;9(1). doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0084749.
2. Vasconcelos IM, Oliveira JTA. Antinutritional properties of plant lectins. Toxicon. 2004;44(4):385-403. doi:10.1016/j.toxicon.2004.05.005.
3. Arkadianos I, Valdes AM, Marinos E, Florou A, Gill RD, Grimaldi KA. Improved weight management using genetic information to personalize a calorie controlled diet. Nutrition Journal. 2007;6(1). doi:10.1186/1475-2891-6-29.
4. Gardner CD, Trepanowski JF, Gobbo LCD, et al. Effect of Low-Fat vs Low-Carbohydrate Diet on 12-Month Weight Loss in Overweight Adults and the Association With Genotype Pattern or Insulin Secretion. JAMA.2018;319(7):667. doi:10.1001/jama.2018.0245.
5. Nutrigenomics and the Future of Nutrition. March 2018. doi:10.17226/25049.
6. Ferrucci L, Perry JR, Matteini A, et al. Common Variation in the β-Carotene 15,15′-Monooxygenase 1 Gene Affects Circulating Levels of Carotenoids: A Genome-wide Association Study. The American Journal of Human Genetics. 2009;84(2):123-133. doi:10.1016/j.ajhg.2008.12.019