Designer dieting

Biomarkers found that could help individualize weight-loss methods

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The bacteria living in your gut and the amounts of certain proteins made by your body can affect your ability to sustain weight loss, according to research published in the December 2022 issue of Cell Reports Medicine.

And some people, it turns out, shed more pounds on low-fat diets while others do better on low-carb diets.

The research indicates a future for personalized diets.

“There are people who can be eating very few calories but still sustain their weight because of how their bodies metabolize fuels,” said Dalia Perelman, a research dietician and co-lead author on the paper. “It is not for lack of will. It is just how their bodies work.”

By measuring the ratio of inhaled oxygen to exhaled carbon dioxide in the study’s 609 participants, the researchers could tell whether carbohydrates or fats were their body’s primary fuel source.

That is one key biomarker the researchers identified — they also examined gut microbiome and proteomic analysis — and it will likely lead to a future in which diets are individualized via metabolic testing.

“If you are following a diet that worked for someone you know and it is not working for you, it might be that that specific diet is not as suited for you,” said Xiao Li, PhD, co-lead author of the paper and a former postdoctoral fellow in the Department of Genetics.

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Kimberlee D'Ardenne

Kimberlee D'Ardenne is a freelance science writer. Contact her at