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Why should not you buy a weight loss DNA kit?



Photo: Viktoriia Hnatiuk / Shutterstock.com

It's no secret that this year's genetic testing kits were one of the hottest Christmas gifts as Ancestry.com sold over 1.5 million on Black Friday alone. In addition to tracking your family tree, these kits are fairly large health claims. They help you determine your fertility and prevent chronic diseases due to your personal genetic makeup. (See also: 5 Shape editors have performed 23AndMe DNA testing and this is what they have learned)

The latest claim made by some genetic testing kit companies is to understand how your genetic predispositions can be an important tool for weight loss. 23andMe is now working with the Lark Health coaching service for artificial intelligence, which provides app-based weight loss and diabetes prevention advice based on your genetic information. While this may sound great in theory, critics say there is not enough research to determine that diet should be based solely on genetic makeup.

"The idea is good, but without the evidence of peer-reviewed publications with prospective study, we do not know if these algorithms are useful," said Eric Topol, a geneticist at the Scripps Research Institute, told Bloomberg

In addition, a recent study published in Nature Human Behavior found that learning your genetic dispositions can actually become a self-fulfilling prophecy rather than serving as a valuable tool for the prevention of chronic disease and weight loss. (See also Why the Potential Intermittent Fasting Benefits Are Not Worth the Risk)

Stanford University researchers applied to participants who were interested in DNA-based diet and exercise plans and genotyped 200 healthy adults, and the participants were then divided into two groups: a cardiorespiratory stress test and the and performed a saturation test. (See: 23AndMe's New Report May Justify Your Hatred for Tomorrow.)

The participants selected for the exercise test had to walk on a treadmill as long as possible while the researchers controlled their oxygen uptake and lung capacity. Those who were selected for the satiety test had to consume a full 480 calorie shake, describe their level, and then receive a blood test for a satiety hormone. Individuals were then randomized to either "high risk" or "protected" for obesity and repeated their respective test.

The results showed that some individuals in the exercise group happened to have a "high-risk" outcome. The result for a low-endurance variant of the gene was worse on the second cardiorespiratory test when it "learned" its results. These participants were more easily tired and showed decreased oxygen uptake and lung capacity.

The satiety group also had many of its participants who had received a "High Risk Outcome Report" after a second test. Even after receiving the same liquid meal, participants who were said to have an appetizing gene variant reported feeling more full than before. The participants were informed at the end of the study about their actual genetic results.

The study found that the effects of perceived genetic risks on outcomes were sometimes greater than the actual effects associated with the genetic risks of these two variants.

Sharing information about genetic risks can change the real risk. Clinicians and ethicists should wrestle with reasonable thresholds when detecting the genetic risk is required, "warned the authors of the study.

Clearly much research is needed before we can really trust our genetics as a weight loss compass. Until then, there is much research into how regular exercise, a healthy diet and just enough sleep can lead to permanent weight loss and chronic disease prevention.

This story was originally published on . CookingLight.com by Lauren Wicks.


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