Bos­ton-based app will an­a­lyze DNA to help per­son­al­ize weight loss

By se­quenc­ing your genes, you can get in­sights on what your body needs nu­tri­tion­ally, Lose It! says.

Metro USA (Boston) - - NEWS - KRISTIN TOUSSAINT @kristin­dakota

What’s the se­cret to los­ing weight?

It’s prob­a­bly not in the lat­est fad diet you heard about, but it may be in your own DNA.

Bos­ton-based weight­loss track­ing app Lose It! wants to help you tap into your ge­netic code so you can bet­ter un­der­stand your diet and nu­tri­tion needs.

Lose It! An­nounced this week its em­bodyDNA ser­vice, a part­ner­ship with Helix, a Sil­i­con Val­ley genome se­quenc­ing startup. Lose It! says that it’s the first DNA-based weight loss plan.

With the app, users track their food and ex­er­cise, but the com­pany was look­ing to give peo­ple an even more per­son­al­ized ex­pe­ri­ence on their weight loss jour­ney, said Kevin McCoy, the se­nior vice pres­i­dent of busi­ness de­vel­op­ment.

“What we learned was that peo­ple are quite a bit more suc­cess­ful when they get more per­sonal in­sights. That’s where the DNA idea came in,” he said. “We thought it’d be re­ally in­ter­est­ing if we could give peo­ple in­sights into their body chem­istry.”

The DNA kit costs $189.99, and you sim­ply send in a sam­ple of your saliva and Helix se­quences your genes in about six weeks. The re­sults will ap­pear up right in your Lose It! App, show­ing you some ge­netic trails across four cat­e­gories: weight loss, nu­tri­tion, fit­ness and food sen­si­tiv­ity.

“One [trait] is sat­u­rated fat, so if you’re pre­dis­posed to the sat­u­rated fat trait, it means if you con­sume more than 22 grams of sat­u­rated fat a day, there’s a like­li­hood of gain­ing weight,” McCoy said. “Only 5 per­cent of the pop­u­la­tion is pre­dis­posed to that, so it’s a re­ally in­ter­est­ing thing to learn about, that sat­u­rated fat does mat­ter to you.”

Other traits will tell you if you’re lac­tose or gluten in­tol­er­ant, your sen­si­tiv­ity to sug­ary drinks and your nu­tri­ent macros, like if you’re pre­dis­posed to hav­ing lower lev­els of iron.

From there, the app will sug­gest some food op­tions for you — for ex­am­ple, things higher in iron to fill that nu­tri­tional need.

Your DNA isn’t go­ing to give you an ex­act roadmap to los­ing those inches on your waist, though. Robert Green, a ge­neti­cist at Har­vard and a com­pen­sated ad­vi­sor to Helix, warned that it’s not that clear cut, but be­ing in­formed about your body can still help you fo­cus on it in a pos­i­tive way.

“As long as com­pa­nies are sell­ing ed­u­ca­tion about these fea­tures in a way that en­gages peo­ple with the no­tion of their bod­ies, with diet, with ex­er­cise, and they’re us­ing this as a way to en­rich the en­gage­ment with healthy things they should know and do any­way, then I think it’s fine,” he said. “I think what is not sci­en­tif­i­cally valid is the no­tion that there’s any ev­i­dence that in­di­vid­u­als can achieve spe­cific out­comes based on their DNA.”

That ed­u­ca­tion is the key, McCoy said. The app will show you the sci­ence be­hind the re­sults, nu­tri­ent de­tails of your food and ex­er­cise be­hav­iors and pro­vide ex­pert in­for­ma­tion in ref­er­ences and stud­ies, he said, “so you can go as deep as you want.”


Nu­tri­tion-track­ing app Lose It! has part­nered with Helix to gain in­sights into your weight-loss needs from your DNA.

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