Weight loss can be a long journey, and for some, it can feel like a continual uphill battle which they rarely seem to succeed in. However, increasingly people are taking DNA tests to assist with losing weight.
Don’t be fooled by the title of this article: no DNA test can help you lose weight by taking a test alone.
However, the boom in consumer genetics, which has allowed people to unlock their ancestry with a simple mouth swab, has also seen a rise in popularity of other kinds of DNA tests, including ones for health and fitness.
Simply put, health and wellbeing DNA tests allow you to find out how your genetics have influenced your body.
So, if you’ve ever felt like weight loss is a battle you just can’t seem to win, no matter what diet or pill you try, then it could be that there are certain genetic factors at play that are working against you.
For example, we all store fat, metabolize carbohydrates, and respond to various diets differently, which explains why your friend may be able to eat whatever they want and never gain weight, but why you feel you can eat a bite of cake and gain 5 pounds.
Our bodies are all wired to work in different ways, and to feel and look your best, you need to know what works, and what doesn’t work, for you. One of the most thorough ways to do this is by taking a DNA wellbeing test.
But with so many on the market, where to start?
Fear not, in this article, we’ve included everything you need to know about DNA tests for weight loss, including our best picks, what to consider before buying, and how to get the best out of your results.
OUR TOP PICK
- Predisposition to certain illnesses
- Wellness report
- Genetic weight
If you know anything about DNA home testing kits, you’ll know that 23andMe is one of the most popular on the market.
Their health and ancestry tests are extremely thorough, and for the health side of the test, you’ll get 10+ reports on findings such as your likeliness of developing Type 2 diabetes and your genetic risk for lung and liver disease, as well as many other illnesses.
Your wellness report will look at your Alcohol Flush Reaction, Caffeine Consumption, Deep Sleep, Genetic Weight, Lactose Intolerance, Muscle Composition, Saturated Fat, and Sleep Movement.
Aspects such as genetic weight will explain whether or not you’re predisposed to weigh more or less than usual, which can be extremely helpful if you’re struggling to lose weight.
Your genetic muscle composition will also be informative, as muscle can make up a significant portion of our overall body weight, which is why the BMI index has been criticized for not taking this into account.
23andMe also ran a survey among those who had taken the test, and 76% reported making healthier choices, 55% reported eating healthier, and 45% started exercising more.
If you choose 23andMe, you’ll receive your results in 3-5 weeks, although it’s worth pointing out that the company only offers combined health and ancestry testing, rather than separate ones.
- Extensive breakdown
- Tailored exercise and nutrition program
- Combined ancestry test available
LivingDNA’s health and wellbeing test is one of the most comprehensive on the market and includes a breakdown of the following: vitamin response, food metabolism, nutrition ideas, exercise, and recovery.
So not only will you find out how your body processes certain foods, and whether you have an intolerance to things such as gluten or dairy, but you’ll also be given tips on optimizing your nutrition and exercise regime.
This gives the test an extremely personalized, in-depth feel, and through your report, you’ll learn how to manage your weight, how your genetics influence your strength and stamina, as well as how your body breaks down different vitamins and food types, and whether you need more, or less, of certain vitamins or foods.
They’ll also suggest the exercise program that can best support you and will explain the role genetics plays in your lifestyle choices, so you can become equipped to optimize your weight loss journey.
LivingDNA is one of the most competitively-priced and best-rated DNA home testing kits on the market, and it often has promotions on its products.
The testing process usually takes around 6-8 weeks for your results to be returned to you, and the company also offers a combined ancestry and wellbeing DNA testing kit.
- Looks at well-being and predisposition to illness
- Sports and diet response
- Continually updating
- Full ancestry test only
If you’re looking for an all-encompassing DNA kit, tellmeGen may be the test for you, as it provides you with an in-depth report on your predisposition to illnesses, genetic variant carrier status, traits, wellness, and ancestry.
The well-being aspect of the test will explain how your DNA influences your diet response, muscle endurance, and response to exercise. It will reveal interesting factors such as whether you are predisposed to obesity, as well as genetically predisposed to anxiety by drinking coffee.
It also identifies your sports performance, diet response, LDL cholesterol levels, exercise response, and vitamin levels, among a myriad of other things.
This report will then allow you to make connections between your genetics and your wellbeing and will highlight the aspects of your DNA that you can work with to further enhance your quality of life and prolong your lifespan.
Another great aspect of this test is that it’s continually evolving and updating its database, so each month, you will have new items of information on your predisposition to health conditions, inherited conditions, or traits.
A team of doctors and geneticists are responsible for updating the information periodically, and updates will be added to your account automatically.
Results take around 4-6 weeks with tellmeGen, and similar to 23andMe, it doesn’t offer a separate wellness test but comes with the full ancestry package, which inevitably bumps up the cost.
- Complete nutrition breakdown
- Personalized, in-depth report
- Quick results
- Affordable and great budget option
The ORIG3N genetic home DNA test kit assesses your sensitivity to certain foods, food breakdown, hunger, weight, and vitamin response.
It tests your DNA for alcohol tolerance (ALDH2), caffeine metabolism (CYP1A2), lactose intolerance (MCM6), weight regain (ADIPOQ), vitamin A (BCM01), vitamin B12 (FUT2), vitamin D (GC), folate levels (MTHFR), and more, providing an extensive overview of how your body processes different food and nutrients, which could be extremely helpful when devising a nutritional plan.
Using ORIG3N’s LifeProfile app, you’ll receive a personalized, in-depth report in 2-3 weeks of submitting your DNA sample, which will map out your unique nutrition genetic profile.
A great aspect of this test is its affordability; it’s one of the cheapest on the market, and while ORIG3N offers a host of different DNA tests, you don’t need to purchase a bundle to take this test.
Causes of Weight Gain
- Genetics - Obesity has a strong genetic component, so children of obese parents are much more susceptible to weight gain than children of lean parents.
- Certain medications, such as drugs for treating seizures, diabetes mellitus, high blood pressure, depression, and psychiatric disorders can cause significant weight gain.
- Fast food and advertising - Heavily processed junk food is packed full of additives to make people unable to resist it. Aggressive advertising campaigns also add to this.
- Sugar is everywhere and is one of the worst ingredients for weight gain. It basically changes the hormones and biochemistry of your body when consumed in excess.
- Leptin response - this hormone plays an important role in obesity. It is produced by fat cells and its blood levels increase with higher fat content. For this reason, obese people tend to have higher leptin levels.
- Insulin levels - insulin is a very important hormone that regulates various things, including your energy storage. One of its functions is to instruct fat cells to store fat, and the Western diet promotes insulin resistance in many obese individuals. This increases insulin levels all over the body, causing energy to become stored in fat cells instead of being available for use.
Why take a DNA test for weight loss?
- Find out how your genetics influence your metabolism, your ability to absorb vitamins, and your predisposition to obesity.
- Learn how your body responds to exercise, and which kind of exercise is most effective for you.
- An in-depth report allows you to see the genetic factors that may be holding you back in your weight loss journey
- Get nutrition and exercise advice tailored to your genetics which can help you make meaningful changes to optimize your well-being.
How does it work?
In the same way that a DNA ancestry test analyses your DNA at specific genetic markers, a DNA health or wellbeing test works in the same way: once you send off your sample, it’ll be analyzed and scientists will identify a combination of gene variants that are thought to be related to food sensitivities.
They will also highlight areas where your body may struggle more than average, such as in processing carbs or fats, which could slow down your metabolism.
Geneticists are looking into ways that common genetic variations may predispose individuals to obesity or difficulty in nutrient breakdown of certain foods.
However, DNA is a complex picture and your weight and well-being are not just dependent on your genetics but a combination of your genetic blueprint and environmental factors and lifestyle choices in your day-to-day life.
What about environmental factors and lifestyle choices?
Like we said, to optimize your health and well-being, you’ll need to address both your genetic predisposition to certain factors or illness (if any) as well as make changes to your day-to-day lifestyle.
So, finding out you have a predisposition to obesity is one thing, but this doesn’t mean your weight is entirely out of your control.
You still need to think carefully about your diet, your daily routine, and how much you exercise. This is where a DNA test can be really useful, as it may identify certain foods your body struggles to breakdown, so you’ll know to avoid these, or it may also suggest the most effective exercise type for your body - in which case, you can integrate this into your day to day routine.
What a DNA Test for Weight Loss Can Tell You
FTO Gene Variants: These are located on chromosome 16. The FTO gene is thought to contribute to the risk of obesity as well as the other health complications that accompany it. For example, studies have shown that variants may be linked to pancreatic cancer and endometrial cancers, as well as other cancers.
Body response: Many DNA tests for wellbeing will explain the nutrients your body struggles to break down. For example, certain nutrition genetic tests indicate that the IRS1 gene may relate to the way carbohydrates affect a person’s body, as well as insulin sensitivity and production. For example, if you cannot absorb blood sugar, it may lead to increased production of insulin and cause insulin resistance, which could result in you developing diabetes. There are also several genes that may be linked to your body’s reaction to consuming high amounts of fat, which could make it more difficult for your body to process this, and in turn, slow down your metabolism.
Exercise response: Your genes can actually respond differently to various forms of exercise, so some may be more effective for weight loss than others. For example, your body may be predisposed to losing weight more effectively if you perform regular cardio exercises, while others may respond better to strength training.
Nutrition and exercise plan: Some DNA testing companies will provide you with a tailored exercise and nutrition program based on your genetic wellness report. These will use algorithms to determine which kind of diet or exercise regime is best suited to your genetic blueprint and will take into consideration how you break down certain nutrients and foods, as well as how your body responds to the various types of exercise.
Things to Consider
Type of test: Do you want a test that tests both your ancestry and your health and well-being, or would you prefer one that covers your well-being alone?
Most of the big brands offer these in an option of individual tests or combined, so you can decide which is best for you. In some cases, ethnicity may also be useful, as certain ethnicities are more susceptible to particular health conditions, which can also affect health, well-being, and weight loss.
Turn-around time: On average, most tests will return you results in around 6-8 weeks, though some do offer quicker turn-around times, particularly if you’re opting to test your health and well-being alone, rather than your ancestry, too. It’s also worth bearing in mind that while smaller companies may have less of a demand to deal with, larger companies may have the capacity to deal with more samples efficiently, so this is unlikely to make too much of a difference.
Cost: DNA tests for weight loss come in at a range of prices, and there’s certainly a test for every budget. Combined ancestry and well-being tests will usually cost more due to the time taken to analyze your DNA in this way, whereas tests that look at health and fitness alone are likely to cost less. It also depends on how in-depth the report is, for example, the tests that break down your DNA to link it to predispositions to illnesses, or certain food intolerances, are likely to cost more. Your best bet is the middle price point, as this is where you’ll get the most bang for your buck, so we advise spending around $50 to $120 on a DNA test for weight loss.
Accuracy: No DNA test is 100% accurate, so it’s essential that you take your results with a pinch of salt. Sure, companies are using the latest technology to analyze your DNA, but these processes will still be prone to human error now and again. Any DNA test, whether for health or ancestry should be treated as a starting point for further research. Use your DNA report to tailor your diet and exercise regime towards your genetic traits and predispositions, but do not use it instead of seeking advice from your doctor or healthcare provider, as it’s always worth getting a second opinion.
Regardless of your genetics, there are certain elements that every diet should contain, and it’s essential to maintain a healthy, well-balanced diet even when trying to lose weight.
According to the Dietary Guidelines for Americans 2015–2020 a healthy eating plan should have an emphasis on fruits, vegetables, whole grains, and fat-free or low-fat milk and dairy products. It should also include lean meats, poultry, fish, beans, eggs, and nuts, be low in saturated fats, trans fats, cholesterol, salt (sodium), and added sugars, and overall, should stay within your daily calorie needs.
The Department of Health and Human Services recommends that most adults should get at least 150 minutes of moderate aerobic activity or 75 minutes of vigorous aerobic activity a week, or ideally a combination of moderate and vigorous activity. It’s best to spread out this exercise during the course of a week, and greater amounts of exercise will of course provide even greater health benefits.
That said, even small amounts of physical activity are helpful and any activity is better than none at all. Being active for short periods of time throughout the day can add up to provide health benefits, so even if you’re simply walking or cycling to work, over time this will make a big difference.
They also recommend strength training exercises for all major muscle groups at least twice a week. You should aim to do a single set of each exercise, using a weight or resistance level heavy enough to tire your muscles after about 12 to 15 repetitions. This will improve your muscular endurance and strength, and will also tone your muscles.
Your weight loss journey should be safe, healthy, and gradual, and a DNA test can play a crucial role in this.
While many factors can contribute to weight gain, such as medication, fast food, a lack of exercise, and your hormone levels, your genetics can also play a role, particularly if you’re obese, as there may be hereditary factors at work.
This is why some people feel like no matter what they do, they simply can’t lose weight. The lack of results in turn can make them feel worse about themselves, and therefore they become less likely to continue their efforts.
A weight-loss DNA test can help indicate your response to certain food types and vitamins, as well as your metabolic rate and your predisposition to certain conditions such as obesity. Once you’re aware of these factors, you can then move forward knowing what works - and what doesn’t work - for your body.
Some testing companies will even design specially-tailored exercise or nutrition programs based on your DNA, or you can use your results to devise your own plan going forward or share it with your healthcare professional so they can assist you in your weight loss journey.
The main thing to bear in mind is that a DNA test is a starting point, not an endpoint. Whatever your results reveal, you should use these to become better accustomed to your body and its needs, so you can start achieving real, long-term results.
However, it’s also not just about looks, but about health. The main thing is that you are healthy and happy, and this should always be central to any weight loss plan.