The Role of Whole-Genome Sequencing in Weight Loss

The vast majority of the population struggles to maintain a healthy weight and a general level of healthy fitness. People try diet after diet and endless numbers of exercise programs. Most eventually give up when they see no results. Even after trying to get fit and thin, they might infuriatingly find themselves gaining even more weight.

Genetics, diet, and weight loss

Many people, as they embark on their struggle with weight, follow all of the recommended tips for weight loss, and find it just doesn’t work for them. However, some weight loss plans do work for some people — just not for everyone. When every woman in your family develops what is basically a “beer belly” during middle-age, it is difficult not to conclude that genetics are somehow involved in this battle against the bulge.

Whole genome sequencing

In the past, genetic tests required knowledge of the specific gene and gene variants to be tested for, but not today. Sophisticated techniques can rapidly and affordably sequence the entire genome. Computer programs can be used to rapidly evaluate the huge amount of information produced, comparing it to the entire body of literature and coming up with unique insights into what makes each person unique.

Different diets

A variety of very different diets have been proposed for weight loss. Some diets urge low-fat while others urge high-fat and low-carb regimens, and some suggest a more balanced approach but to just cut portion sizes. Some diet plans suggest snacking constantly, while others suggest skipping meals and even fasting several days a week. In addition, a variety of different fitness plans have been proposed to assist with weight loss and to improve general health. Some of these plans suggest simply walking, others tout the benefits of very intense interval training, and some suggest doing hard-core weightlifting as the only way to lose weight. It is enough to make your head spin. Clearly, each and every one of these approaches worked for some people — but not all people. It is possible that whole-genome sequencing could be used to predict which diet and exercise approach is most likely to work for each individual. Thus, instead of trying this or that and getting frustrated, you could just get tested with a genome sequencing service and be informed of the approach most likely to work for you in your quest for thin fitness.

Metabolic variances and genetics

An intriguing study was published recently in Genetics showing that the genetic makeup of various strains of mice affected how they responded to four different diet types in both weight gain and markers of health. One diet was a typical high-fat, high-carb Western diet, one resembled the Mediterranean diet, one resembled a typical Japanese diet, and one was a low-carb high-fat ketogenic type diet. Although mice are obviously not humans and don’t respond in the same way that people do to various diets, the results of this study showed that the genetic differences between the mice profoundly altered how they responded to each type of diet. These differences extended beyond weight gain to adverse health effects in some of the strains in response to a particular diet, such as one strain developing obesity and liver damage on one of the diets but not on the other diets. There was no one diet that was best for all of the different strains of mice. A similar effect is almost certainly behind different people’s responses to different types of diets and exercise.

It’s in your genes

All of these observations and scientific studies lead inexorably to the same conclusion: before you embark on a weight loss/fitness plan, your first step should be to get your genetic makeup checked out. You might be tempted to try the ketogenic diet plus spin class that your friend lost 20 pounds on, but what if it doesn’t work for you and you just end up with sore knees, fatigue, and bad breath? Then you’ll have to keep trying, and failing, until you finally find out what works for you, or just give up. Luckily, today you can start out on your journey towards a thin fit you, better informed than previous generations.