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New Study: ‘Hunger Gut’ Gene May Affect GLP-1 Drug Effectiveness

Are you curious about how well weight loss medications like Ozempic and Wegovy might work for you? Recent research suggests that a simple genetic test could provide some answers. This test identifies what researchers call a ‘hunger gut’ gene, which might predict how effectively these drugs can help you shed pounds.

The study, shared at the Digestive Disease Week 2024 conference, introduced a risk score based on this gene. People with a positive ‘hunger gut’ score tended to lose twice as much weight compared to those without it. This breakthrough could mean more personalized and effective weight loss strategies with semaglutide medications. In this blog, we’ll know what the study found, explore the potential benefits of this genetic approach, and discuss the limits of using genetic testing in weight loss treatments. 

Could Your Genes Predict Weight Loss Success?

In collaboration with the Mayo Clinic, Phenomix Sciences (a biotech company focused on precision medicine for obesity) they presented their findings at Digestive Disease Week 2024, offering promising insights into personalized obesity treatment.

The “Performance of a Machine-Learning Gene Risk Score Biomarker on Predicting Response to Semaglutide” study revolves around the MyPhenome Hungry Gut test. This innovative test uses a machine-learning approach to predict who will benefit from semaglutide, a medication used for weight management. Essentially, it assesses the likelihood of a person feeling hungry soon after meals—a challenge known as “hungry gut,” which can be frustrating for those trying to lose weight.

Researchers looked at 84 individuals struggling with obesity or related weight issues. They gathered saliva or blood for genetic testing and detailed participants’ eating patterns. Over a year, these participants received semaglutide treatment, including Ozempic alternative drugs like Wegovy, and the team meticulously tracked their weight loss at three-month intervals. Although the results are yet to be peer-reviewed, early data shows that this genetic score can effectively predict who will respond well to the treatment, potentially making weight loss journeys more tailored and effective. This approach not only promises to enhance treatment outcomes but also sheds light on the complex relationship between our genes and our diet.

Details from the Semaglutide and Weight Loss Study

Mayo Clinic researchers developed the innovative MyPhenome test. This test doesn’t just predict if you’ll respond to semaglutide—it also identifies your specific obesity phenotype, which can significantly influence your weight loss strategy. Here’s a quick rundown of the four obesity phenotypes identified:

  1. Hungry Brain: This type involves eating a lot without ever feeling truly full.
  2. Hungry Gut: Have you ever eaten a full meal only to feel hungry again shortly after? That’s the hungry gut.
  3. Emotional Hunger: This type is all about eating in response to feelings rather than hunger.
  4. Slow Burn: If your body burns calories at a snail’s pace, you fall into this category.

These insights come from an outcomes registry tracking adults who are undergoing weight loss treatments, focusing particularly on those prescribed semaglutide.

The findings are quite striking. For example, individuals identified as ‘hungry gut positive’ showed remarkable results: they lost 14% of their body weight by the 9-month mark, compared to just 10% for those who were ‘hungry gut negative.’ By the 12 months, the ‘hungry gut positive’ group had lost an impressive 19% of their total body weight, while the ‘hungry gut negative’ group maintained around a 10% loss.

How Semaglutide Research Can Be Useful?

It’s clear that not everyone reacts to medication in the same way. This variability often makes treatment a hit-or-miss scenario. However, the latest findings from this research offer a promising solution. The key lies in a genetic test that can predict how individuals might respond to how semaglutide works with about 75% accuracy. This isn’t just about reducing guesswork; it’s about providing tailored treatments that address the root causes of obesity in each person. This test could soon be a tool in healthcare settings, helping doctors decide if semaglutide is the right option without the usual trial and error.

Dr. Mitchell Roslin, a respected bariatric surgeon from Northwell Lenox Hill Hospital in New York who wasn’t part of this study, shared his insights with Medical News Today. He highlighted the severe impact of obesity, noting, “Severe obesity is deadly, aging people’s bodies by 10 to 20 years and leading to heart disease, the number one killer.”

Semaglutide itself is relatively new in the fight against obesity, and it’s not cheap—costing nearly $1,000 per month if not covered by insurance. That’s why knowing whether it will be effective before starting treatment can significantly influence decisions about investing in this option.

Moreover, it’s important to consider the side effects Ozempic. Dr. Mir Ali, a bariatric surgeon from MemorialCare Surgical Weight Loss Center in California, explained that while side effects like nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, or constipation can occur, they typically decrease as the body adjusts to the medication. He advises starting with the lowest possible dose and gradually increasing it as needed.

What Are the Limitations to Genetic Testing for Weight Loss Drugs?

While the potential of genetic testing for predicting responses to semaglutide is exciting, it’s important to recognize that not all doctors are ready to integrate this into their practice. Dr. Mir Ali, a bariatric surgeon, shares his reservations about relying heavily on such tools. He finds the risk score calculator a bit cumbersome and is hesitant to recommend additional expenses for genetic testing to his patients.

Dr. Ali prefers to consider a range of factors before prescribing weight loss medications. These include assessing how overweight a person is, their body mass index (BMI), what weight loss methods they’ve tried before, and their overall suitability for weight loss surgery. He explains, “Weight loss surgery still remains the most effective method for substantial and sustainable weight loss. For those who aren’t candidates for surgery, I then consider medications like semaglutide.” Moreover, Dr. Ali stresses the importance of broader lifestyle changes, regardless of the treatment path chosen. “The ultimate goal,” he emphasizes, “is to foster healthy eating habits and sustainable lifestyle changes.” 

Conclusion

The latest research on semaglutide offers promising insights into personalized weight loss treatments. By potentially reducing the guesswork through genetic testing, we can tailor approaches to suit individual needs. However, it’s important to weigh the benefits against the costs and consider all treatment options, including lifestyle changes and exploring avenues to buy Ozempic from Canada. As we advance, integrating these findings responsibly will be key to enhancing weight management strategies effectively and compassionately.

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