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Gene-Based Diets Don't Help Weight Loss

A new study appearing in the Journal of the American Medical Association finds that genetic variants may not affect whether someone responds to a particular weight loss approach.

These findings, Stat News notes, could put a damper on companies that say they can link people to the diet that's best for them based on their genetics. Interleukin Genetics, for instance, offered a gene-based weight management program, though Orig3n recently purchased much of its assets.

Researchers from Stanford University Medical School enrolled 609 overweight adults in to the Diet Intervention Examining The Factors Interacting with Treatment Success (DIETFITS) trial and randomized them to follow either a healthy low-fat diet or a healthy low-carbohydrate diet. After 12 months, there was no significant difference in weight loss between the groups.

The Stanford team also tested whether SNPs in certain genes previously linked to fat and carbohydrate metabolism could identify patients who would respond better to either of the diet types. But again, the researchers found no evidence that those genotype patterns influenced patients' responses to the different diets.

A previous, though smaller, study from the same Stanford team did find, though, that people who were placed on diets that aligned to their genotypes lost weight. But as GenomeWeb's Turna Ray reported in November, those results were not published, as replication in a larger cohort — such as this new study — was needed.

"We know weight loss is tough and sustained weight loss is even tougher. Genetics are relevant … [but] it seems highly unlikely that providing genetic risk information is going to be the magical formula that is going to fix this complex problem," the University of Alberta's Timothy Caulfield tells Stat News.