OTCs in Action Episode 28: DNA-based diets a beacon of future OTCs



UK: Overweight patients in Essex are being offered the opportunity to receive DNA-based tailored diets and exercise regimes under a pilot scheme offered by the National Health Service. The “Extraordinary People” project, run by the NHS’ Enable East, is a free programme funded by the Big Lottery Fund. To date, 56 participants have completed DNA tests provided by DNAFit, which will give personalised reports on their key genes related to diet, nutrition, physical health and fitness. Based on the findings, participants will be allocated to one of 5 diet plans and tailored exercise regimes. If successful, the programme could be rolled out across the UK.

(from Nicholas Hall’s OTC.NEWSFLASH, May 23, 2015)

OTCs are in Action in the UK, where the NHS is attempting to validate DNA-based, individualised weight loss programmes. The connections between DNA make-up and body weight are becoming increasingly apparent as the human genome is unravelled. Earlier this year, US National Institutes of Health Director, Dr Francis Collins, blogged about a study of the genomes of more than half a million people to look for genes and regions of chromosomes that play a role in body fat distribution and obesity. They turned up over 140 genetic locations that contribute to these traits, and further analyses suggest the possibility that the programming behind how fat cells form may influence their distribution.

In fact, OTC tests for DNA weight loss programmes are available online as OTCs and were a hot topic in the media several years ago, but have not become mainstream. While a positive result of the NHS study will offer credibility for this OTC category, it’s still early stages. In an interesting twist, DNAFit subscribers can become members of 23andMe, the pioneer in OTC genetic testing, which made its first appearance in OTCs in Action Episode 22: Genetic disorders vs Alcoholic Blushes.

In theory, the personalised weight loss programmes of today could be successful, but OTC marketers know that the human / actual use factor in compliance can offset the best science. The significance is the future prospects – perhaps some day, prospective dieters will review a 23andMe report before choosing between weight loss OTCs such as orlistat-based Alli (GSK) or raspberry ketone dietary supplements.