Many people think if they just stick to a diet and exercise, they’ll lose weight; unfortunately, many are not successful. They wonder why they can’t lose weight even after trying many different diets, work out programs and medications. According to Andres Acosta, M.D., Ph.D., the answers, at least partially, may be in your genes. His research in obesity shows that there is not just one type of obesity, and there are many different genetic and biological factors that play a role in losing or gaining weight. That’s why Dr. Acosta and his team have developed an individualized approach to tackle obesity – one patient at a time.
In the new Obesity Clinic within Mayo Clinic Center for Individualized Medicine, a multidisciplinary team selects therapy for each patient based on his or her genetic and biological characteristics, environment and behavior. The new approach is already dramatically increasing treatment success and pioneering the application of precision medicine to treat chronic diseases.
“Prior to using an individualized approach, only 30 percent of obese patients had successful weight loss after treatment. We studied 500 patients to identify the factors leading to their obesity and then selected the best therapy for each patient based on their unique characteristics. With this new approach, patients with obesity will lose two times more weight than with standard therapy. This is critical because obesity is one of the leading causes of death and increases the risk for developing diabetes, heart disease and many types of cancer. Our goal is to help people get control of their weight and live a healthier lifestyle,” says Dr. Acosta.
“We often think of individualized medicine being used to treat cancer or rare genetic disorders. Now we are pioneering a new treatment for obesity, a chronic condition. This is where the future of precision medicine is headed – developing individualized treatments for many common, chronic conditions.”
So how does the individualized approach work for patients with obesity?
Here is an example: some obese patients do not experience a normal sensation of fullness after eating and it takes them longer to feel full. Dr. Acosta and his team were able to identify genetic characteristics linked to this condition and then prescribe a currently available medication to help these patients feel full sooner, stop overeating and lose weight.
“This individualized approach to treating obesity allows physicians to maximize the effectiveness and safety of current, FDA-approved medications and endoscopic and surgical procedures. It may also lead to the development of new treatments to meet the unique needs of patients,” says Dr. Acosta.
The Obesity Clinic is open to anyone who is overweight or obese and wants to lose weight. Patients visiting the clinic will see a multidisciplinary health care team, which includes gastroenterologists, dietitians, surgeons, endocrinologists and psychologists, all specializing in the treatment of obesity. As part of their evaluation, patients will have:
· Genetic testing to identify unique characteristics that may impact weight gain or make weight loss more difficult
· Pharmacogenomics testing to identify any genetic factors that impact how a person processes medications
· Evaluation of eating habits, including appetite and diet
· Assessment of lifestyle and behavioral factors that may play a role in weight gain
Patients also meet one on one with staff in Mayo Clinic Healthy Living Program to develop a personalized plan for nutrition, fitness and wellness. With follow up support from wellness coaches, the program helps patients successfully maintain control over their weight and live a healthier lifestyle.
This article originally appeared on the Center for Individualized Medicine blog on July 13, 2017.