Treatment for Obesity is About to Get Personal

We come in all shapes and sizes, but recent scientific studies show that it’s not all the workings of your diet—or even sheer chance. Your body mass index (BMI, the ratio between your height and weight) and fat distribution are shown to be connected to obesity-related factors, being directed in the background by your innate genetic makeup.

In other words, the genetic code varies across folks with different BMIs or different levels of fat distribution.

The specific genes that contribute to obesity are yet to be discovered, however, these studies have set scientists on the right path to learning how these genes operate and drive our biological makeup.This is one of the earliest clues that portray genes’ role in contributing to weight gain and obesity. The discoveries were released in the journal Nature, one paper specific to BMI and another fat distribution.

What this means down the road

  • Your body mass index (BMI) is not all diet and exercise; genes contribute to weight gain and obesity.
  • These discoveries could lead to new weight loss innovations, personalized to your genetic code.
  • BMI and fat distribution are far more complex than we originally understood.

No, this doesn’t mean you can stop working out and just leave it all to nature. But it does mean that new weight loss strategies, completely personalized to your genetic code, may be on the horizon. More precision, more personalized—and hopefully, more effective.

Dr. Elizabeth Speliotes, senior author of the paper on body mass index, reminds us to not overly simplify obesity and weight challenges: “What the data supports is the fact that there are a lot of different causes of obesity. If you’re hoping for one cause of obesity, that’s not reality. What causes you to be obese is probably slightly different from what causes me to be obese.”

While the studies uncovered some not-so-surprising findings, like the genetic code for nervous system functions and appetite control do play a part, it also included a few surprises. For example, genetic regions that are responsible for learning and memory may play a bigger role than expected.

Treatment isn’t one size fits all.

Currently, obesity treatment is compartmentalized. Everyone is treated in nearly the same way, put into a box and run through a textbook program. However, now we know that genetics plays a role, and that there are many drivers.

These findings prove that BMI and fat distribution may be far more complex than we’ve chalked it up to be—and that, in similar fashion, treatment may need to take a leap forward and become equally personalized.