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How GMOs May Affect Weight Gain

how GMOs may affect weight gain

Among the many controversies surrounding GMOs (genetically modified organisms) and their use in our food is their possible impact on weight gain. It’s not a topic that has garnered much attention in the realm of GMOs, but it is one that is worth considering, especially given the high percentage of basic food crops (e.g., corn, soybeans, canola) that have been genetically modified and their presence in processed foods.


GM foods, or crops that have had their genetic material (DNA) altered so they can resist drought or pesticides, are at the center of intense debate. Despite the intensity coming from both sides of the aisle (pro and con GMO), much is not known or understood about their impact on our health, the environment, and the future of food crops in general.

GMO foods and weight gain
This article looks at a study in which Norwegian researchers fed food containing GMO corn to one group of rats and non-GMO food to another group. During a three-month period:

  • The rats who ate the GMO corn gained more weight and consumed more food than did the rats in the other group
  • Rats who ate fish that had been fed GMO corn also got fatter than rats who did not eat the same fish

Replicating this same type of study using humans is problematic, which is why rats (typically used in food studies and who have a limited lifespan) are the model of choice. The study’s lead researcher, Ashild Krogdahl, PhD, professor at the Norwegian School of Veterinary Medicine, wondered “If the same effect applies to humans, how would it impact people eating this type of corn over a number of years, or even eating meat from animals feeding on this corn?”

GMO foods and health
These are excellent questions and ones that experts will be investigating (as well as similar inquiries) as the GMO debate continues. They are especially good questions given the fact that most people eat many processed foods and that these items typically have one or more GM ingredients, including high fructose corn syrup and/or soy lecithin.

For example, 93 percent of the corn and 94 percent of the soybeans grown in the United States are genetically modified. In addition, half the sugar Americans consume also is GMO.

What will be the impact of the slow accumulation of genetically altered DNA in our bodies?

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Nutritional values also are suffering in part because of GMOs. A report from The Organic Center (“Still No Free Lunch: Nutrient levels in US food supply eroded by pursuit of high yields”) noted that compared with 50 years ago, today’s fruits and vegetables frequently have 10 to 25 percent lower levels of protein, vitamin C, iron, calcium, zinc, and various micronutrients. That means we have to eat more food to get the same amount of nutrients people did half a century ago.

Krogdahl also pointed out another finding in his study. While some GMO proponents claim that the new genes in GM foods are harmless because they are broken down in the intestinal tract, the new research showed that they can get into the bloodstream, liver, and muscle tissue, where their impact is not yet known.

When you consider all of these factors, including the study findings, it makes you wonder about what impact a diet teaming with processed foods and GMO ingredients could have not only on your weight but your overall health as well.

Although the jury is still out on the effect of genetically modified foods on our health overall and weight gain in particular, it seems prudent to stick with whole, natural foods when pursuing weight loss and a lifetime weight maintenance plan. The fewer artificial, untested ingredients we put into our bodies, the more we honor our natural metabolism and internal balance and the better chance we have to maintain a healthful weight.

Also read: Does a vegetarian diet promote weight loss?
Fake meat and real change

How GMO crops conquered the United States
The organic and non-GMO report
ScienceNordic. Growing fatter on a GM diet

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