Biomarkers predict weight loss and suggest personalized diets

summary: A new study suggests that cutting calories and exercising alone isn’t enough to help shift excess weight. Researchers report that gut bacteria and the amount of specific proteins your body produces influence your ability to lose weight and maintain weight loss. Depending on personal biomarkers, people lose more weight following a low-carb diet, while some lose more weight while following a low-fat diet.

Source: Stanford

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

A strict diet—whether it was a healthy low-carb or a healthy low-fat diet—was what mattered for short-term weight loss during the first six months. But people who maintained their long-term weight loss for a year ate the same number of calories as those who regained or did not lose weight during the second six months.

So what explains this difference?

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

Stanford Medicine researchers have identified several biomarkers that predict how well an individual will be able to lose weight and keep it off over the long term. These biomarkers include signatures from the gut microbiome, proteins made by the human body, and levels of exhaled carbon dioxide.

The researchers published their results in Medicine Cell Reports on the 13th of December.

“Weight loss is mysterious and complex, but we can predict from the start using microbiomes and metabolic biomarkers who will lose the most weight and who will keep it off,” said Michael Snyder, PhD, professor and chair of genetics and colleagues. Senior author on the paper.

Willpower does not lead to weight loss

The data came from 609 participants who recorded everything they ate for a year while following a low-fat or low-carb diet consisting mostly of high-quality, minimally processed foods. The researchers tracked the participants’ exercise, how well they followed their diet, and the number of calories they consumed.

The study showed that simply cutting calories or exercising wasn’t enough to maintain weight loss over a year. To try to understand why, the team turned their focus to biomarkers of metabolism.

said Dalia Perlman, a research nutritionist and co-author of the paper.

Throughout the study, researchers measured the ratio of inhaled oxygen to exhaled carbon dioxide, known as the respiratory quotient, which serves as a proxy for whether carbohydrates or fats are the body’s primary fuel.

A lower ratio means that the body is burning more fat, while a higher ratio means it is burning more carbohydrates. Therefore, those who started a diet with a higher respiratory quotient lost more weight when following a low-carb diet.

“There are people who can eat very few calories and still maintain their weight because of how their bodies metabolize fuel. It’s not because of a lack of willpower: It’s just how their bodies work,” Perelman said.

In other words, if your body prefers carbs and you eat mostly fat, it will be much more difficult to metabolize and burn those calories.

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According to the study, the bacteria that live in your gut and the amounts of certain proteins your body makes can affect your ability to maintain weight loss. The image is in the public domain

Added Xiao Li, PhD, a co-author of the paper, a former Stanford MD postdoctoral fellow who is now at Case Western University.

For now, focus on nutrients

Predictive information from the gut microbiome, proteomic analysis, and respiratory quotient signatures lay the foundation for a personalized diet. Snyder said he believes tracking amounts of certain strains of gut microbes 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, unprocessed foods that are low in refined flour and sugar.

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

“Your mindset should be on what you can include in your diet rather than what you should cut out,” Perelman said.

See also

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Find out how to eat more fiber, whether it’s from beans, whole grains, nuts or vegetables, instead of thinking you shouldn’t eat ice cream. Learn how to cook and rely less on processed foods. If you care about the quality of the food in your diet, you can forget about counting calories.”

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author: press office
Source: Stanford
Contact: Press Office – Stanford
picture: The image is in the public domain

Original search: open access.
Distinguishing factors associated with short- and long-term weight loss due to intervention with a low-fat or low-carbohydrate dietBy Xiao Li et al. Medicine Cell Reports


Distinguishing factors associated with short- and long-term weight loss due to intervention with a low-fat or low-carbohydrate diet


  • Distinctive variables are associated with both short- and long-term weight loss success
  • The primary drivers of short-term weight loss are diet adherence and diet quality
  • Long-term weight loss is associated with signs of multi-personal primarily
  • Fundamental factors (such as RQ) can indicate accurate weight loss methods


To understand what determines weight loss success in the short and long term, we conduct a secondary analysis of dietary, metabolic, and molecular data collected from 609 participants before, during, and after a one-year weight loss intervention using either a healthy low-carbohydrate (HLC) diet or a healthy low-fat diet. (HLF).

Through systematic analysis of multidomain data sets, we found that diet adherence and diet quality, not just caloric restriction, are important for short-term weight loss on both diets. Interestingly, we see minimal dietary differences between those who are successful in long-term weight loss and those who are not.

Instead, the signatures of proteome and gut microbiota differed significantly between these two groups at baseline. Furthermore, the basal respiratory quotient may indicate a specific diet to achieve better weight loss results.

Overall, identification of these nutritional, molecular and metabolic factors, common or unique to HLC and HLF diets, provides a roadmap for developing individualized weight loss strategies.

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