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Can a DNA test help me with weight loss?


In ancient times, hunger was one of man’s greatest fears. We have reached a point in history where its opposite is a bigger problem for those affected. Maintaining a healthy and balanced diet, as well as optimal weight, is crucial for preserving proper health, both physically and mentally.

Obesity is defined as the abnormal and/or excessive accumulation of fat that can cause health problems.

To put it simply, it results from the body taking in more energy than it expends. One of the popular weight loss diets is precisely the CICO (Calories In, Calories Out) diet, which devises a strategy to consume fewer calories than are burned.

If we were to make a list of the main risk factors for various diseases, obesity would likely be one of the most recurring. Don’t hide, tobacco, you’re also high up on that list. WE KNOW WHAT YOU’RE DOING.

Moreover, some of the other risks that would enter that list are often linked to weight, such as high cholesterol or hypertension.

Obesity is a risk factor for cardiovascular diseases (currently the leading cause of death), diabetes, musculoskeletal disorders, and some forms of cancer.

La obesidad es un factor de riesgo en enfermedades cardiovasculares (principal causa de muerte actual), diabetes, trastornos musculoesqueléticos y algunos cánceres.

Can a DNA Test Help Me with Weight Loss?

Obesity as an Epidemic

In 2021, it was believed that 2.1 million annual deaths were attributable to obesity. It was also credited with 44% of diabetes cases and 23% of ischemic heart diseases.

Unfortunately, due to physical and biological reasons, it’s not always easy for everyone to reach their optimal weight. Moreover, according to the latest studies conducted by the World Health Organization, obesity has tripled worldwide since 1975.

In 2016, more than 1.9 billion adults aged 18 years or older were overweight, of which over 650 million were obese. In other words, in 2016, 39% of adults aged 18 years or older were overweight and 13% were obese. Interestingly, obesity is not a pathology unique to industrialized societies: developing countries are increasingly seeing more people affected by obesity.

Foods high in fats, salt, and carbohydrates, with high energy value, can be very cheap. However, they are poor in other nutrients, leading to a combination of obesity problems and malnutrition due to a deficit in other compounds.

It should be added that these data were collected by the World Health Organization (WHO), which used the Body Mass Index (BMI) to calculate obesity. The BMI is based on the formula kg/m2 applied to the individual and establishes that overweight occurs at values equal to or greater than 25, and obesity at values equal to or greater than 30.

The BMI has clear advantages: it’s easy to understand and interpret, it applies to most individuals, and it can be calculated quickly and non-invasively. However, there is a minority for whom it would give erroneous results. People with high muscle mass have a higher weight that BMI would confuse with obesity, even though they are in full physical condition. Similarly, it can give favorable results in obese individuals by not taking into account the distribution of fat.

Genes and Obesity

However, not everything is negative. Fortunately, today, thanks to advancements in fields such as medicine, biotechnology, and genetics, we have much more effective tools to achieve and maintain our ideal weight and thereby prevent or eliminate obesity.

The influence of genetics on weight is undeniable. Twin studies have established that obesity has a heritability of between 40 and 75%.

There are various genetic syndromes that affect an individual’s weight. Thirty percent of people with Fragile X syndrome are obese. In the case of Prader-Willi syndrome, those affected exhibit hyperphagia and a lack of satiety, which can lead to severe obesity from childhood.

The number of genes linked to obesity, whether individually or collectively, is significant. There are over 500 genes related to obesity in humans on record. Among the most studied are the LEP and LEPR genes, which encode leptin and its receptor, respectively. Leptin is a hormone that regulates body weight, inhibits intake, and participates in various metabolic processes to activate energy expenditure. Other genes include POMC (coding for proopiomelanocortin, a precursor of several peptide hormones) or MC4R (whose protein has a central role in energy balance and whose deficiency causes obesity).

Given the enormous relevance of appetite, its control within the body is complex. A balance where the main players are adipose tissue, the stomach, endocrine organs, and the central nervous system (especially the hypothalamus).

Another important detail is that genetic causes of obesity must be considered in the methods and protocols used to treat this pathology. For example, in monogenic obesity, the main issue is usually hyperphagia. For these patients, the primary measure is to restrict food intake. However, other mutations may require changes in physical exercise or diet.

With this in mind and our values to improve people’s quality of life, at tellmeGen we have developed a section in our genetic test focused on aspects of your well-being, including nutrition.

In this section, we study items such as body mass index, preference for sweets, prediction of visceral adipose tissue, or blood glucose.

And because we like to make everything complete and well done, we also have the nutrigenetic report. This report is made by leveraging your genetic test data and a few of your physical details, allowing for personalized results. The goal is not just to lose weight, it is to improve the user’s health with our help.


Carlos Manuel Cuesta

Graduate in Biology. PhD in Biotechnology

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