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The Perfect Personalized Diet for Your Genes – Part 3

ideal diet, genetics, dna, processed meats

By Kelley Herring

In my last two articles, you learned quite a bit about your individual genetic blueprint and how it makes YOU unique. You also discovered how your specific genetic variations (called SNPs) impact your:

  • Risk for autoimmune illness

  • Ability to detoxify chemicals and process alcohol

  • Metabolism of caffeine

  • Conversion of beta carotene to vitamin A

  • Carbohydrate intolerance

You can see those articles here and here.

Today, we continue our discussion of how your genetics shape the landscape of your ideal diet… and why the days of a “one-size-fits-all diet” being best for everyone are long gone.

Specifically, we explore how your genetics can influence whether eating processed meats increase your risk for colon cancer… and if it does, what you can do about it!

Plus, you’ll discover why you should always be wary of “population” studies – no matter how loudly the media wish to promote them as the Gospel Truth!

sugar detox, eating habits, sugar free sausage, brain food, processed meats

Colon Cancer Risk from Processed Meat: The GATA3 Gene

As you may have heard over the years, some studies have linked processed meat consumption to an increased risk of colon cancer. However, other studies show no such association.1

Could the explanation be related to our genes?

A large epidemiological study looked at the interaction of genetic variants, colon cancer and diet. The researchers found that the increased risk is for colon cancer with processed meat consumption was ONLY for people carrying a specific GATA3 genotype.

The study also found that risk increased with the amount consumed. So, while occasional consumption of bacon and bratwurst won’t add much to your cancer risk (if you carry this genetic allele), heavy consumption of processed meats – along with this variant – increased colon cancer risk by 40%.2

It is also important to realize that this study – like most of its kind – makes no distinction between the types of meat that were used… the processing methods… or how the meats were cooked.

And because so many other foods are consumed simultaneously, it is impossible “population” studies to scientifically isolate the effects of any ONE food in a diet.

For example, Americans who consume processed meat typically do so with a bun made of refined wheat flour… served with a side of white potatoes deep fried in inflammatory industrial seed oils… and washed down with a sugar-laden soft drink!

So, how do we know that it’s the meat—and not these other foods—that is to blame for increases in cancer?

We cannot know that from these flawed studies. In fact, while the “news media” was happy to promote the so-called connection between “processed meat and colon cancer”, a team of the researchers who performed and summarized these studies clearly stated why it is impossible to place the blame on red meat, when there are so many “other dietary factors” including…

The ‘Western’ lifestyle, high intake of refined sugars and alcohol, low intake of fruits, vegetables and fiber, and behavioral factors, including low physical activity, high smoking prevalence, high body mass index.” 3

So, while it is wise to take most dietary population studies with a “grain of salt” it is also wise to consider the origin, farming methods and cooking preparations for the meats you consume.

For example, processed meats like bacon and hot dogs are often cooked on the grill or using other high-heat methods. Cooking meats on high heat (especially when they become charred) is known to produce carcinogenic compounds like heterocyclic amines (HCAs).4

And given that certain genetic variations can raise (or lower) YOUR risks… it is important to use any genetic information you do have to your advantage. With this in mind, here’s what to look for in your genes:

rs4143094 (23andMe v.5 only)

  • TT: Higher risk of colon cancer with increasing processed meat consumption

  • GT: Higher risk of colon cancer with increasing processed meat consumption

  • GG: Normal

rs1269486 (23andMe v.4 only and AncestryDNA)

  • AA: Higher risk of colon cancer with increasing processed meat consumption

  • AG: Higher risk of colon cancer with increasing processed meat consumption

  • GG: Normal

Your GATA3 Personalized Diet

If you carry the GATA3 allele, consider limiting processed meats and swapping them out for fresh meats. Choose grass-fed beef, pastured pork and wild seafood and use lower-heat, moist cooking methods like pressure cooking, poaching and slow cooking.

If you choose to grill or use a higher-heat method, you can significantly reduce the formation of cancer-causing heterocyclic amines and other cancer-causing agents by marinading your meat in a mixture of antioxidant rich spices and herbs. Studies show that curry, lemongrass, and rosemary are three of the strongest protectors.5,6

Finally, reducing the amount of time the meat is in continuous contact with a heat source also reduces risk for cancer-causing compounds to form. In fact, one study showed that flipping hamburgers every minute for 7 minutes resulted in less than one-tenth the level of HCAs compared to flipping the burgers just once with a cooking time of 9 minutes.7,8

And most importantly for your optimal health, avoid consuming meat with the “Standard American” sides of bread… French fries… chips… and soda.

cattle pasture scene, grassfed nutrition, back to nature

Personalize Your Diet to Optimize Your Wellness

In this series of articles, you’ve learned how your genetics shape the landscape for your ideal diet…

You discovered why so called “healthy” foods like spinach can be fine for some people… while causing pain and disease in others.

The days of the “one size fits all diet” are long gone. Personalized nutrition holds the key to tailoring your diet to your unique genetics, optimizing your wellness and enhancing longevity!

Stay tuned for more…

Read Part 4: Genes & Diet – Your Genetic Blueprint. Read more from Kelley Herring on our Discover Blog.

kelley herring

Ed Note: Need some kitchen inspiration? Grab Kelley’s free guide – Instant Pot Keto Dinners – made exclusively with Paleo-and-Keto ingredients, for quick and delicious meals that taste just as good – of not better – than your restaurant favorites. Get your free guide here.


  1. Alexander DD, Miller AJ, Cushing CA, Lowe KA. Processed meat and colorectal cancer: a quantitative review of prospective epidemiologic studies. Eur J Cancer Prev. 2010 Sep;19(5):328-41. doi: 10.1097/CEJ.0b013e32833b48fa. PMID: 20495462.
  2. Figueiredo JC, Hsu L, Hutter CM, Lin Y, Campbell PT, Baron JA, Berndt SI, Jiao S, Casey G, Fortini B, Chan AT, Cotterchio M, Lemire M, Gallinger S, Harrison TA, Le Marchand L, Newcomb PA, Slattery ML, Caan BJ, Carlson CS, Zanke BW, Rosse SA, Brenner H, Giovannucci EL, Wu K, Chang-Claude J, Chanock SJ, Curtis KR, Duggan D, Gong J, Haile RW, Hayes RB, Hoffmeister M, Hopper JL, Jenkins MA, Kolonel LN, Qu C, Rudolph A, Schoen RE, Schumacher FR, Seminara D, Stelling DL, Thibodeau SN, Thornquist M, Warnick GS, Henderson BE, Ulrich CM, Gauderman WJ, Potter JD, White E, Peters U; CCFR; GECCO. Genome-wide diet-gene interaction analyses for risk of colorectal cancer. PLoS Genet. 2014 Apr 17;10(4):e1004228. doi: 10.1371/journal.pgen.1004228. PMID: 24743840; PMCID: PMC3990510.
  3. Alexander DD, Cushing CA. Red meat and colorectal cancer: a critical summary of prospective epidemiologic studies. Obes Rev. 2011 May;12(5):e472-93. doi: 10.1111/j.1467-789X.2010.00785.x. PMID: 20663065.
  4. Alexander DD, Miller AJ, Cushing CA, Lowe KA. Processed meat and colorectal cancer: a quantitative review of prospective epidemiologic studies. Eur J Cancer Prev. 2010 Sep;19(5):328-41. doi: 10.1097/CEJ.0b013e32833b48fa. PMID: 20495462.
  5. Neves TM, da Cunha DT, de Rosso VV, Domene SMÁ. Effects of seasoning on the formation of heterocyclic amines and polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons in meats: A meta-analysis. Compr Rev Food Sci Food Saf. 2021 Jan;20(1):526-541. doi: 10.1111/1541-4337.12650. Epub 2020 Nov 27. PMID: 33443787.
  6. Puangsombat K, Smith JS. Inhibition of heterocyclic amine formation in beef patties by ethanolic extracts of rosemary. J Food Sci. 2010 Mar;75(2):T40-7. doi: 10.1111/j.1750-3841.2009.01491.x. PMID: 20492265.
  7. Salmon CP, Kinze MG, Panteleakos FN, Wu RW, Nelson DO, Felton JS. Minimization of heterocyclic amines and thermal inactivation of Escherichia coli in fried ground beef. J Natl Cancer Inst 2000; 92: 1773–8.
  8. O’Neil. Hamburger safety may be partly in the flip. The New York Times 2000; Dec 5.