Diets for Your DNA


The newest wave of weight loss literature focuses in on the connection between genetics and obesity, indicating that certain genes may make people predisposed to gain weight. Two companies, Interlukin and Newtopia, have developed test kits marketed to determine your genetic markers and recommend a diet plan for your DNA type. Interlukin ran a study that compared weight loss in groups of women put on three different diets: Atkins, Zone and Ornish. They found that when women were DNA matched to the diet appropriate for them, they lost twice as much weight as women randomly placed on one diet or the other. Newtopia begins the matching process with a physician consultation composed of a behavioral and psychological survey along with a genetic test. The results are then followed up by an individualized diet plan, a month of vitamin supplements, and six weeks of coaching sessions. Interlukin sends a do-it-yourself swab kit that returns results in two weeks with the recommendation to choose a low-fat, low-carb, or balanced diet including how much exercise is required for your genes to burn fat. The Interlukin product costs $169 and tests for five genetic variations of four genes. The Newtopia test costs $399 and evaluates three genes, one for fitness and diet, one for food psychology, and one for eating behavior.

Both programs are preliminarily based in science. There are 200 genes currently identified that are thought to influence weight and your ability to lose it, or not gain it in the first place. Each company claims to have chosen the genes to analyze based on scientific indicator, and to have selected genes thought to influence common behaviors that sabotage diets, including over-eating, compulsive eating, or low levels of exercise for a body that requires higher energy to torch fat. Yet some scientists, including Michael Dansinger of Tufts University, believe that weight is only 10% genetically determined, and the remaining 90% is a result of lifestyle. He believes that picking a diet consistent with your lifestyle and sticking with it is more important than matching one to your genetic makeup. Other critics including Mark Liponis, author of The Hunter/Farmer Diet Solution argue that there are only two types of people, the hunters who do better with limited carbohydrates, and the farmer who should eat a low-fat grazing style diet.

Naturally, Newtopia and Interlukin disagree with such critics, and maintain that while they don’t propose to be an end all solution to obesity, that people may experience greater success picking a diet matched for genetic indicators than on chance alone. They maintain that even if you have genetic indicators for obesity, you are not predetermined to gain weight, but just have genetic vulnerabilities that you need to navigate by avoiding certain foods or increasing exercises. These two products hope that their tests will help people to do just that, find weak spots in diet and exercise and eat around them. Other scientists feel that while these companies may be onto something, that they need further studies and more knowledge before they should be accepted.

Source courtesy of Elle.  Image courtesy of The Huffington Post.

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