Stanford study reveals secrets to sustainable weight loss: behaviors and biomarkers exposed

Obesity Weight Loss Concept

Researchers at Stanford Medicine have discovered biomarkers that can predict an individual’s ability to lose weight and maintain weight loss over the long term. These biomarkers include signatures of the gut microbiome, proteins made by the human body, and levels of exhaled carbon dioxide. The study found that the bacteria in the gut and the amounts of certain proteins the body produces can affect an individual’s ability to lose weight. In addition, the study found that some people lose more weight on low-fat diets, while others achieve better results on low-carb diets.

A new analysis of data from a year-long weight loss study has identified behaviors and biomarkers that contribute to short- and long-term weight loss.

Sticking to a strict diet — either healthy low-carb or healthy low-fat — was key for short-term weight loss for the first six months. But people who lost weight long-term for one year ate the same number of calories as those who regained weight or did not lose weight in the second six months.

So what accounts for this difference?

According to the study, the bacteria that live in your gut and the amounts of certain proteins your body produces can affect your ability to lose weight. And some people, it turns out, lost more pounds on low-fat diets, while others did better on low-carb diets.

Researchers at Stanford Medicine have identified several biomarkers that predict how successful someone will be at losing weight and keeping it off over the long term. These biomarkers include signatures of the gut microbiome, proteins made by the human body, and levels of exhaled carbon dioxide. The researchers published their findings Dec. 13 in the journal For now, focus on nutrients

The predictive information gleaned from the gut microbiome, proteomic analysis, and respiratory quotient signatures is laying the foundation for personalized diets. Snyder said he thinks tracking amounts of certain gut microbe strains will be a way for people to determine which diets are best for weight loss.

We’re not there yet, so until then, according to the researchers, the focus should be on eating high-quality foods that are unprocessed and low in refined flours and sugar.

The research team identified specific nutrients that were correlated with weight loss during the first six months. Low-carb diets should be based on monounsaturated fats — such as those that come from avocados, rather than bacon — and high in vitamins K, C, and E. These vitamins are in vegetables, nuts, olives, and avocados. Low-fat diets should be high in fiber, such as is found in whole grains and beans, and avoid added sugars.

“Your mindset should be on what you can include in your diet instead of what you should exclude,” Perelman said. “Figure out how to eat more fiber, whether it is from beans, whole grains, nuts, or vegetables, instead of thinking you shouldn’t eat ice cream. Learn to cook and rely less on processed foods. If you pay attention to the quality of food in your diet, then you can forget about counting calories.”

Reference: “Distinct factors associated with short-term and long-term weight loss induced by low-fat or low-carbohydrate diet intervention” by Xiao Li, Dalia Perelman, Ariel K. Leong, Gabriela Fragiadakis, Christopher D. Gardner and Michael P. Snyder, 13 December 2022, Cell Reports Medicine.
DOI: 10.1016/j.xcrm.2022.100870

Christopher Gardner, professor of medicine and co-senior author on the paper, also contributed to this work.

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