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This may be the future perfect weight loss program

Kathleen Blanchard's picture
Experts highlight future weight loss using genome sequencing

Researchers have tapped in to what might be the perfect weight loss program. Experts are now suggesting a new approach for losing weight that uses a person's genetic data to provide a customized diet and exercise plan.


According to CDC statistics, more than 78.6 million Americans are obese. Losing weight is difficult because there is no singular diet or exercise program that works for everyone.

Precision weight loss in the future

Results of a report that appears in the January, 2016 edition of the journal Obesity, describes the future of programs to curb obesity; known as "precision weight loss".

Weight loss experts describe how genetic information and other data can be collected by portable monitoring devices to help people lose weight without regaining lost pounds.

Molly Bray, a geneticist and professor of nutritional sciences at The University of Texas at Austin, foresees individualized weight loss plans that use sophisticated data including genetic, behavioral and other information.

Bray adds she believes people will be using such data within five years.

How it will work

Precision weight loss plans could include:

  1. Submitting saliva for genome sequencing
  2. Using portable devices that collect information about environment, stress, diet and activity
  3. Computer alogirthm interprets the data to deliver an individualized weight loss plan

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Bray says devices like Fitbit already make it possible to collect data. Genome sequencing has become inexpensive. The challenge now is to develop tools to analyze the data.

"We are pretty good at helping people lose weight in the short term," says Bray. "But the stats on long-term weight loss are pretty dismal. We still don't understand the process of weight regain very well, either from a behavioral or a biological standpoint.

The researcher cautions that we have some information about how genes can influence weight management, but there is much more to be discovered.

For example, the discovery of the so-called obesity gene that causes fat to be stored rather than used for energy may seem simple. Bray say it's more complicated.

"When you go back and see how much of the variation in this gene accounts for the variation in body size in the general population, it's really small," Bray explained in a media release. "So that highlights that there are going to be several genes involved with obesity, and they're going to interact with each other in complicated ways. And that's certainly true of weight loss and maintenance too."

Weight loss program that work are important for several reasons. The cost of obesity i measurable in health care dollars spent. Obesity can lead to cardiovascular disease, diabetes, certain cancers and more; taking a toll on an individual's health. Bray said obesity is "one of the gravest problems of our times" and rates are rising worldwide.

The hope is that using genetic information for weight loss will inspire others. Rather than give up, those who find it difficult to lose weight can become empowered.

The goal is to take our wealth of information and use it to help those in need, Bray says.. Even if your genes make weight loss difficult, it appears there is help on the way, thanks to technology.

Scott, R. A. (2016), Unraveling the role for genetics in enabling precision prescription for weight loss—scaling up for success. Obesity, 24: 12–13. doi: 10.1002/oby.21380