DNA-Testing Kit Company To Launch Huge Weight-Loss Study Focused On Diet, Exercise And Genes

By Ethan Baron
The Mercury News

WWR Article Summary (tl;dr) “23andMe”, which sells personal DNA-testing kits, will conduct a study intended to uncover the genetic reasons why diet and exercise have different effects on people.

SAN JOSE, Calif.

Is fitting into your jeans a matter of your genes?

One Bay Area company aims to provide answers.

Mountain View’s 23andMe, which sells personal DNA-testing kits, has announced a large-scale study intended to uncover the genetic reasons why diet and exercise have different effects on different people.

The company said it will recruit for the study 100,000 of its customers who are overweight, but in otherwise good health. Scientists know lifestyle, environment and genetics all play a role in a person’s weight, but how those influences work together is poorly understood, 23andMe said.

“We’d like to better understand the genetic, demographic, psychosocial and behavioral characteristics that predict weight loss success overall, and on different lifestyle interventions,” said Liana Del Gobbo, 23andMe’s lead scientist on the study. “This will help us begin to pave the way toward more personalized lifestyle recommendations.”

The company, co-founded in 2006 by entrepreneur Anne Wojcicki, biologist Linda Avey and business executive Paul Cusenza, called the 100,000-participant size of its study “unprecedented” and said researchers would look into “the effectiveness of using different diets or exercise to lose weight.”

Participants’ complete sets of DNA will be studied, to tease out genetic variations that may affect physical responses to diet and exercise.

Previous genetics-based research has focused on the body mass index, which uses gender, height and weight to try to quantify body fat levels, but none has explored “behavioral weight loss,” which largely revolves around diet and exercise, according to 23andMe.

“This is important because the genetic variants that influence BMI may not be the same as those that influence weight loss,” the company said.

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