Why You Probably Shouldn't Waste Your Money on DNA-Based Diets

Scientists

How many conversations have you had with your friends debating what the best way to lose weight is: to eat a low-fat diet or a low-carbohydrate diet?

Sure, it seems like a good idea: Lose weight following a diet that's tailored to your own unique genetic makeup instead of trying a one-size-fits-all approach. It all depends on the person - although they haven't yet been able to determine the all important characteristics that determine which camp you fall into.

"We've all heard stories of a friend who went on one diet, it worked great, and then another friend tried the same diet and it didn't work at all", Gardner said.

"It's because we're all different, and we're just starting to understand the reasons for this diversity".

The researchers then analyzed weight loss among people whose DNA "matched" or clashed with their assigned diet.

About half were men and half were women.

It's possible that the study failed to find a difference in weight loss with either diet based on genotypes at least in part because participants didn't really follow the instructions for their assigned diet, said Susan Roberts of the USDA Nutrition Center on Aging at Tufts University in Boston.

One of the companies that sells DNA tests that promise to guide customers to the most-likely-to-succeed diet, Pathway Genomics, did not respond to requests for comment. Reducing either carbohydrates or fats from the diet shaves off excess weight in about the same proportion, claims a new study.

By the end of the study, participants in the two groups had lost, on average, 13 pounds. Some people reported losing 60 pounds, while some gained around 20 pounds. The low-carb group was advised to eat foods such as avocados, hard cheeses, vegetables, olive oil, salmon, nut butter, and grass-fed and pasture-raised animal foods. A total of 37.5% of participants in the HLC diet had the low-fat genotype, while 31.9% had the low-carb genotype.

Researchers at Stanford University found that overweight adults who followed a low-fat or low-carbohydrate diet tailored to their genetic predisposition and biological makeup weren't any more successful at shedding pounds than the groups that followed the same two diets, but without the customization for these predispositions. There was still, however, huge weight loss variability among them. The volunteers got 22 hourlong classes with dietitians on healthy low-fat diets (eat less oils, fatty meats, full-fat dairy, and nuts) or low-carb ones (reduce cereals, grains, rice, starchy vegetables, and legumes), as well as on the dangers of eating mindlessly. Yet another theory is that carbs and fats are the main sources of calories in American diets, so if you significantly cut back on one or the other you're nearly certain to cut back on calories too.

"I'm hoping that we can come up with signatures of sorts", he added.

None of the study participants were told to cut calories.

Note that the study population was unique in being very healthy, without significant comorbidity, and with access to high-quality food, which may not reflect the typical overweight or obese patient. "I still think there is an opportunity to discover some personalisation to it [dieting] - now we just need to work on tying the pieces together".

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