Photo (cc) by Alan Cleaver
Science might soon provide new tools for people hoping to lose weight after failing to accomplish that goal in years past.
A new report in the peer-reviewed journal Obesity concludes that incorporating data like genetic test results into weight-loss efforts has the potential to improve results.
The report describes this personalized treatment approach as “precision weight loss” — and the lead author says it could be available in the near future.
Molly Bray, a geneticist who works as a professor of nutritional sciences at the University of Texas at Austin, says in a university news release:
“I think within five years, we’ll see people start to use a combination of genetic, behavioral and other sophisticated data to develop individualized weight management plans.”
The report summarizes a review of a broad range of research from institutions across the world, and it identifies key areas for future research.
Various studies suggest that about half of the variation in people’s body mass index — a measure of weight that also takes height into consideration — can be attributed to genetic factors. The rest is attributed to environmental factors such as diet and exercise.
Research has also identified some of the genetic basis for weight-related diseases. For instance, one gene appears to cause calories to be stored as fat rather than be burned as energy, according to the University of Texas.
“We’ve made great strides in our understanding of what drives eating behavior, how fat cells are formed and how metabolism is altered before and after the onset of obesity.
“The time is ripe to take this wealth of data and find ways to utilize it more effectively to treat people in need.”
The challenge now is for scientists to develop tools to analyze genetic data that is available from sources ranging from saliva samples to fitness trackers.
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