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Precision weight loss based on genetics may be future of dieting

The researchers said better analytical tools could help doctors and patients make better decisions for long-term weight loss.
By Stephen Feller   |   Dec. 25, 2015 at 4:14 PM

AUSTIN, Texas, Dec. 25 (UPI) -- Scientists at the University of Texas predict in a new study that within five years doctors will design diets based on individual patients' genes.

While they say five years, the researchers said better analytical tools will need to be created in order to quickly understand the relationship between genetics, behavior, and weight-related diseases.

The potential that several genes are involved with weight gain, loss, and regain also poses a challenge, they said. While a gene has been found that causes energy from food to be stored as fat instead of burned for energy, variations in the gene and how it interacts with other genes can vary from person to person.

"When people hear that genes may be playing a role in their weight loss success, they don't say, 'Oh great, I just won't exercise any more,'" said Molly Bray, a geneticist and professor of nutritional sciences at the University of Texas Austin, in a press release. "They actually say 'Oh thank you. Finally someone acknowledges that it's harder work for me than it is for others.' And then I think they're a little more forgiving of themselves, and they're more motivated to make a change."

Researchers in the study, published in the journal Obesity, analyzed genetic tests, genomic research, and research on weight change. They found that while some genes related to weight have been identified, there's a lack of understanding on how they actually effect weight.

Bray said gains in data collection on weight gain and loss, and better sensors to monitor environment, diet, activity, and stress, will help. And when combined with genomic data using a computer algorithm, the researchers say the development of analysis tools is not far off.

"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," said Bray.

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