Photo by Bill Branson, NIH
(December 23, 2015) Some health experts predict that the next big advance in helping overweight people achieve a healthier weight will be to use an individual's genetic data to customize diets and physical activity plans, an approach known as "precision weight loss." A recent summary report on the genetics of weight loss, developed by some of the leading experts in this field, finds that the biggest challenge to realizing this dream is the need for better analytical tools for discovering the relationships between genetics, behavior and weight-related diseases.
The report, which appears in the January edition of the journal Obesity, summarizes what scientists currently know about factors that influence weight loss and weight regain, and it identifies how genetic information and data collection from noninvasive, portable devices may soon be incorporated into research and weight loss treatment.
"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," says Molly Bray, a geneticist and professor of nutritional sciences at The University of Texas at Austin, who led the working group.
Bray speculates that in the future, patients might submit saliva samples for gene sequencing, along with using automated sensors to collect information about factors such as their environment, diet, activity and stress. A computer algorithm would take this information and provide patients with specific recommendations to achieve their target weight.