HomedietWhy Blood Type Diets Don't Work: Understanding Polymorphism

Why Blood Type Diets Don’t Work: Understanding Polymorphism

Why Blood Type Diets Don’t Work: Understanding The Science Behind Polymorphism


Blood type diets have been in vogue for several years now and have generated significant incomes for many a “nutritionist”, however, as much as some may  want to believe that eating for your blood type could be a cure-all that miraculously  delivers them from the ravages of allergies, weight gain and metabolic disease, the reality is that regardless of how many celebrities endorse the blood type diet, or how many big names in the “nutrition field” declare the importance of eating for your blood type, there is no science behind any of the claims. No peer reviewed or evidence-based research supports the effectiveness of blood type diets for weight management or improving human health, and the theory behind blood type diets would make anyone with an understanding of polymorphism and evolutionary biology shake their heads in despair. Polymorphism is in essence, the development of genetic variations due to environmental factors, and in terms of blood types, there is conclusive and unshakable evidence that human dietary patterns had no bearing on the development of our blood types. Yet, even all these years since the blood type diet was popularized, people still cling to it as a possible ray of hope that can help them with their weight and health problems. Sadly, it is nothing more than quackery and profiting off the hopes and desperation of so many trusting men and women trying to better themselves, just one more low point in the history of commercially driven weight management nutrition. Advocates of the blood type diet are no different from the travelling hucksters of days gone by, preying on the innocent by promoting and profiting from false and unproven health schemes under the guise of “alternative medicine”. True science is absent or cherry picked in all the literature promoting blood type diets, and one of the greatest downfalls of our profit driven world is that it has become very difficult for the average person to differentiate between scientific fact and product promotion. However, by understanding the science of how our different blood types came to be, you can’t help but be amazed at how misleading the idea of eating for your blood type really is.


Why Blood Type Diets Don’t Work: The Flawed Premise Behind Eating For Your Blood Type

The founder of the blood type diet, Dr. Peter D’Adamo, proposed that blood type is directly related to how our bodies react to certain foods, and as such you should eat a diet specific to your blood type for optimum health and weight maintenance. The premise behind blood type diets is that blood types somehow evolved as we did as a species. Dr. D’Adamo’s hypothesis is that the universal blood Type O first evolved due to our hunter gatherer lifestyle. As such, individuals with Type O blood type should gravitate towards eating a high protein, “Paleolithic” diet. As humans switched from their hunter gatherer practices to more agrarian lifestyle around 15,000 BC, the switch to a more agriculture based diet “created” Type A blood type, and as such people with Type A blood types should eat a primarily vegetarian diet. Blood Type B supposedly came into existence at 10,000 BC, when some groups of humans added grains to their diet and Dr. D’Adamo’s recommendation is that they should eat a diet high in grains. Finally, within the past thousand years, blood Type AB surfaced as a result of people eating a wide variety of food and those with this blood type can eat a more varied diet, whereas those with other blood types need to eat for their type, else risk weight gain and other health problems. According to blood type diet advocates, there is “research” showing that a specific set of proteins called lectins interact with the different ABO blood types. The idea is that these lectins can be incompatible and even harmful to people with certain blood types, thus people with different blood types should eat different foods.


It sounds rather scientific, but only if you don’t understand basic biology. It is an accepted fact that polymorphism, (the creation of different ABO Blood Types), discovered and categorized by Karl Landsteiner in 1900, occurred millions of years ago, not thousands of years ago. This isn’t an esoteric piece of information, but an established fact of human evolutionary history and is one of the foundations of true scientific research into our ancestral origins. To fully explain why blood type diets don’t work I have to take something that has been presented rather simplistically, (so it will sell), and briefly explain the complexities that reveal it to be an impossibility. Scientific terminology can often seem a bit intimidating, but I can assure you that it isn’t as complicated as it seems and taking the time to stay abreast scientific findings make it really hard to believe in the pseudoscience so often found in weight loss advertising. Here is a breakdown of how blood types evolved and why a blood type diet can’t work:


Why Blood Type Diets Don’t Work: Blood Types Evolved Long Before Homo Sapiens

blood type diet refuted
Blood types developed long before homo sapiens did and so cannot possibly be related to changes in the human diet.

The type of blood you have in your body is determined by alleles at a single locus (fixed position) at chromosome 9.[1] These alleles encode for different amino acids called glycotransferases.

In blood type A, cytosine at nucleotide site 793 translates to leucine 265 and guanine at nucleotide site 800 translates to glycine 267.

In blood type B, the cytosine at 793 translates to methionone 265 and the guanine at 800 to alanine 267.[1]

Blood type AB occurs when both changes occur.

Blood type O is caused when an inactive or nonfunctional protein is coded.


Studies have shown that polymorphism exists in other primates as well as all anthropoid primates [2]. Given the similarities found between human blood and that of several primates, scientists are able to use what they know based on the average mutation rate that must have occurred for there to be a divergence of A and B blood types. Using those estimates, some scientists conclude that A and B types diverged at least 13 million years ago.[3, 3.2, 3.3] These concrete findings contradict the blood type diet conjecture about blood types being fairly recent occurrences, as polymorphism seems to have occurred at least eight million years before the first ape-like creature began walking on two legs. Other studies estimate that the blood groups would have diverged 4.5 to 6 million years ago, but in spite of the differences in estimation all accounts point to polymorphism being an occurrence that predates modern man. So the blood type diet’s theory rests that a transition from a hunter gatherer lifestyle to an agriculture based existence had something to do with our blood type development is incorrect and easily proven to be untrue.


Why Blood Type Diets Don’t Work: Type O Blood Didn’t Come First

blood type o was not the first blood type
Blood type O is a mutation and so must have developed AFTER other blood types. It was not the first blood type as the Blood Type Diet founder theorized.

There is strong evidence that blood type A and blood type B may have been the original blood types and not Type O as the blood type diet theory claims. Type O seems to be an abnormal mutation as a result of a defective gene, and so was never a universal blood type. Normal genes such as A and B cannot evolve from abnormal ones and so they must have predated blood Type O.[4,5,6,7,8, 9, 10, 11] Although blood Type O is commonly found in all populations around the world [12], there is no evidence that the O gene represents the ancestral gene at the ABO locus. Nor is it reasonable to suppose that a defective gene would arise spontaneously and then evolve into normal genes.


Blood Type Diets Don’t Work: Disease Determined Blood Types Not Diet
blood type diets are flawed
Disease and not diet is responsible for difference in blood type concentrations across populations.


Another flaw in the blood type diet theory is the idea that specific foods are responsible for our blood type variations. The truth is that diversity of blood types among specific populations can be traced directly to an evolutionary defense against bacteria and viruses and not foods that were eaten. People have either blood group A, B, AB, or O, with each type occurring at different frequencies in populations around the world. Robert Seymour and his colleagues at University College in London used mathematical models to show that this diversity is caused by natural selection pressures imposed on human populations by viral and bacterial infections. [13] Their model reveals that if viral infections were common in a population, blood type O will be most common, whereas if bacterial infections are more common in a population, then A and B blood types will be more frequent. Dietary differences have nothing to do with the blood type you or your ancestors developed and so another aspect of the blood type diet is proven to be incorrect.



Blood Type Diets Don’t Work: Race Has Nothing To Do With Blood Type
Race has nothing to do with blood type
All of these men and women could have the exact same blood type.

The notion that race has anything to do with blood type or the type of foods we should eat is not an idea supported by human biology. Race in and of itself is not a biological reality. A race is a biological subspecies or variety of a species, consisting of a more or less distinct population with anatomical traits that distinguish it clearly from other races. This biological definition does not line up with human genetic variation as human beings are extremely homogeneous. In fact, each human on the planet is 99.9% genetically identical to every other human, with most of the differences stemming from gender and individual personality traits. Such homogeneity is not commonplace among other animals, even among some of our closest biological relatives; chimpanzees have 2-3 times more genetic variation than humans, while orangutans have 8-10 times more variation. (See my article: Does Race Affect Your Ability To Lose Weight)

In almost 30 years of helping people from all over the world lose weight, I have observed few differences in the dietary recommendations required to help someone lose weight or get into better health. Differences abound in terms of preferences, which are due to conditioned and cultural influences, such as veganism, vegetarianism, and conscious dislike of certain foods. Occasionally, people may require different dietary recommendations because of food allergies or intolerance, such as nut allergies and lactose intolerance, but none of the variations in what would constitute an ideal diet for some one to lose weight has anything to do with their blood type. At the end of the day, anyone following a diet comprised of only naturally occurring foods in amounts proportional to their activity level can lose weight and get into fantastic shape while eating a wide range of foods. Avoiding processed foods and alcohol in addition to getting regular intense exercise will always be the main factor in how successful your weight loss will be, as success will not come from choosing foods based on an invented blood type diet. As popular as this diet was, we would expect time to bear out its effectiveness. Yet, there has been revolutionary weight loss among the millions who have followed it, and so it is no different from the dozens of fad diets before and the dozens that are likely to come as long as people can become wealthy literally overnight because of them. Sadly at the expense of those seeking viable solutions to their weight loss problems. I have personally seen a fair share of men and women on the blood type diet and they all stopped following it organically after seeing a lack of results over time. Some lost weight initially because the recommendations may have encouraged them to eat better than they were, but not well enough for it to have been a long term weight loss solution. I wish losing weight and getting into better shape was as simple as just eating for your blood type, avoiding foods with gluten, eating zero carbohydrates, being vegan, or buying all your foods from the organic aisles in the supermarket, but simply isn’t that simple. Magic formulas, instant solutions and simple solutions don’t apply to complex issues like weight loss and changing our bodies requires us to first change our behaviors. And then follow through with patience, consistency and strong faith. Not faith in blood type diets, or whichever fad diet comes our way, but faith in our own ability to adopt and sustain healthy lifestyles. Thanks for reading.

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Featured everywhere from the Wall Street Journal to CBS News, Kevin Richardson’s Naturally Intense High Intensity Training have helped hundreds lose weight and transform their bodies with his 10 Minute Workouts. One of the top natural bodybuilders of his time, Kevin is also the international fitness consultant for UNICEF and one of the top personal trainers in New York City.



References for Blood Type Diets Don’t Work:

1. Martinko JM, Vincek V, Klein D and Klein J. Primate ABO glycotransferases: evidence for trans-species evolution. Immunogenetics 19993

2. Diamond, J. Guns, Germs, and Steel: The Fates of Human Societies. W.W. Norton & Company.

3. Ségurel L, Gao Z, Przeworski M. Ancestry runs deeper than blood: the evolutionary history of ABO points to cryptic variation of functional importance. Bioessays. 2013

3.2. Leffler EM, Bullaughey K, Matute DR, Meyer WK, et al. Revisiting an old riddle: what determines genetic diversity levels within species. PLoS Biol. 2012

3.3. Socha WW, Moor-Jankowski J. Blood groups of anthropoid apes and their relationship to human blood groups. J Hum Evol. 1979

4. Yamamoto F, Clausen H, White T, Marken J, Hakomori S. Molecular genetic basis of the histo-blood group ABO system. Nature 1990

5. Yamamoto F, McNeill PD, Yamamoto M, Hakomori S, Bromilow IM, Duguid JKM. Molecular genetic analysis of the ABO blood group system: 4. Another type of O allele. Vox Sang 1993

6. Grunnet N, Steffensen R, Bennett EP et al. Evaluation of histo-blood group ABO genotyping in a Danish population: frequency of a novel O allele defined as O2. Vox Sang 1994

7. Olsson ML, Chester A. Frequent occurrence of a variant O1 gene at the blood group ABO locus. Vox Sang 1996

8. Mattos LC, Sanchez FE, Cintra JR et al. Genotipagem do locus ABO (9q34.1) em doadores de sangue da região noroeste do Estado de São Paulo. Rev Bras Hematol Hemoter 2001

9. Olsson ML, Chester A. Frequent occurrence of a variant O1 gene at the blood group ABO locus. Vox Sang 1996

10. Yamamoto F, McNeill PD, Yamamoto M, Hakomori S, Bromilow IM, Duguid JKM. Molecular genetic analysis of the ABO blood group system: 4. Another type of O allele. Vox Sang 1993

11. Grunnet N, Steffensen R, Bennett EP et al. Evaluation of histo-blood group ABO genotyping in a Danish population: frequency of a novel O allele defined as O2. Vox Sang 1994

12. Mourant AE, Kopec AC, Domaniewska-Sobczak K. The distribution of the human blood groups and others polymorphisms. London: Oxford University Press, 1976.

13. Seymour RM, Allan MJ, Pomiankowski A, Gustafsson K. Evolution of the human ABO polymorphism by two complementary selective pressures. Proceedings of the Royal Society of London. Series B: Biological Sciences 2004

Kevin Richardson
Kevin Richardsonhttps://www.naturallyintense.net
Featured everywhere from the Wall Street Journal to CBS News, celebrity Personal Trainer NYC and with over 2.6 million readers of his blog, Kevin Richardson is the creator of Naturally Intense High Intensity Training, one of the top lifetime drug free bodybuilders of his time, the first International Fitness & Nutrition Consultant for UNICEF, 2020 and 8 Time Winner of the Best of Manhattan Awards for Personal Training and a world recognized authority on high intensity training. Kevin has helped thousands, from celebrities to CEO's over the past 30 years achieve their fitness goals with his 10 minute high-intensity workouts done just three times a week in conjunction with his holistic nutrition approach. You can learn more about about his diet and training services at www.naturallyintense.net

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