Just in time for the annual tradition of making (and breaking) New Year resolutions, genetic testing business 23andMe has kicked off recruitment for a 100,000-person study of weight loss and what genetics may or may not have to do with it, according to a blog post on its website.
Liana Del Gobb, lead scientist for the “Weight Loss Intervention Study”, said the goal is to understand the genetic, demographic, psychosocial, and behavioral characteristics that predict successful weight loss. Although the ‘counting calories, eating in moderation, and exercising more’ mantra hasn’t gone out of style just yet, 23andMe is one of several companies that is keen to better understand how lifestyle, environment, and genetics impact weight management.
Its blog notes that behavior is an important aspect of the study:
“Although there have been genetic association studies that focused on weight, or more specifically body mass index (BMI), no trials have looked at behavioral weight loss. This is important because the genetic variants that influence BMI may not be the same as those that influence weight loss. Also, for this kind of genome-wide association study to be effective, it needs large numbers of people to participate to uncover genetic variants. That is what makes 23andMe uniquely able to conduct this research now.”
Study participants will get emails from researchers to guide them through weight loss advice, meal suggestions, and live researcher forums for support and updates. When the study ends, researchers will share study findings, the blog post noted. The researchers will also follow up with study participants in six-month intervals.
“Ultimately, we’d like to learn how to make traditional lifestyle interventions more scalable and cost-effective. This intervention will be an exciting first step,” said Liana Del Gobbo, 23andMe’s lead scientist on the study, in the blog post.
In September, 23andMe raised $250 million in a financing round led by Sequoia Capital. This weight loss study reflects the company’s push to identify genetic determinants of chronic conditions, cancer, immunological disorders and skin diseases as part of an effort to refine its genomic tests and bring in more indications.
The diagnostic company’s approach dovetails with other companies that want to take on the country’s weight management challenge with genetics. With two-thirds of Americans either overweight or obese, according to data from the Centers for Disease Control, and drugs largely failing, it’s easy to see personalized approaches are where the weight management market is heading in 2018.
Prenetics is one genetic testing business that is using “nutrigenomics” to help people better understand how their genetic makeup informs their body’s response to food and give insurance companies a risk stratification tool.
Last year, UK-based DNAFit rolled out its Elevate app, which provides an online training program based on the results of a saliva swab to evaluate 45 genetic variants. Pathway Genomics is another direct-to-consumer diagnostic company that is chasing the personalized fitness market.
It will be interesting to see whether 23andMe’s study produces results that add significant insights into our nation’s weight management issues or just another wrinkle to the personalized fitness fad.
Writen by Stephanie Bajim for MedCity News