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Study: Genetics could be the future key to losing weight

Maintaining your weight can be a serious challenge, especially during the holiday season when sugary goodies and carbohydrates are all the rage. But within the next few years, things could get easier.

Scientists at the University of Texas predict that doctors will be able to design diets based on individual’s genes in the next five years.

Of course, five years isn’t a long time in the world of science and better analytical tools will need to be developed quickly to truly understand the relationship between behavior, weight maintenance and genetics.

Additionally, the potential that several genes are associated with weight gain and loss presents a hurdle. Researchers have discovered a gene that causes energy from food to be stored as fat instead of burned for energy. However, variations in the gene and how it interacts with other genes can be different for every person, UPI reports.

Researchers analyzed genomic research, weight change research and genetic tests in the study, published in the journal Obesity. They discovered that some genes related to weight have been found, but more information is needed to determine how they actually affect weight.

A geneticist and professor of nutritional sciences at the University of Texas Austin, Molly Bray, said that more data collection on weight loss and gain along with better sensors to monitor diet, activity, stress and environment will aid in finding that understanding. The good news is that the development of analysis tools is within reach.

“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.

However, these individualized plans alone won’t make you lose weight. You’ll still have to do some exercising!

“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,” Bray said 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.”

“We are pretty good at helping people lose weight in the short term,” Bray said. “But the stats on long-term weight loss are pretty dismal. We still don’t understand the process of weight regain very well, either from a behavioral or a biological standpoint.”

Nonetheless, these diet plans could help people find the right foods to keep the weight off.

Want to know more? Here are some of the key findings from the study, courtesy of Endocrinology Advisor:

  • Manifestation of an individual’s genes: Research shows that while weight loss interventions may not affect overall body weight/BMI, they may improve fat distribution, increase lean mass or reduce diabetes and cancer risk, suggesting that different types of measurements may be more informative in our understanding of the process of weight loss.
  • Genetic variants as predictors of obesity treatment response: Research has identified genetic variants that make certain individuals more likely to succeed with some treatments over others. For example, those with a certain allele on the MTIF3 gene may be more likely to achieve weight-loss success through intensive lifestyle interventions with a focus on diet and physical activity, while those with a specific FTO variation may achieve greater weight loss following bariatric surgery.
  • Biological systems at work that influence food intake and physical activity: Epigenetics (chemical modifications of genes that may be the result of exposures to certain environments), and the gut microbiome (microorganisms that naturally live in our stomach and help with balancing metabolic function) have been shown to have lasting effects on weight.
  • Genetic impact on food preferences, ingestive behavior and physical activity: Research has shown that certain genes expressed in the brain may lead to a greater preference for and consumption of high-calorie foods. Other studies tie genes to both those who exercise and those who don’t, as well as adherence to an exercise plan and exercise tolerance.

About Meredith Rodefer

Meredith Rodefer
Meredith Rodefer is a freelance writer, who focuses on anything from lifestyle blogging to hard news, and dancer. Beyond Youth Independent, she has written for sites such as Natmonitor.com, CheekyChicago.com and FamilyFocusBlog.com. Contact Meredith: meredith.rodefer@youthindependent.com