dnaMD- Exploring Weight Watchers
Updated: Aug 9, 2021
Weight Watchers (WW) is one of the most popular weight-loss programs in the world. WW has caught the attention of millions of people, including celebrities like Oprah Winfrey. And many of the WW subscribers have found long-term success in their weight-loss goals.
But what does the Weight Watcher’s program truly entail? And how does it compare against a genomic nutrition plan?
Weight Watchers 101:
Weight Watchers was founded in 1963 by Jean Nidetch in Queens, New York. In the 1990s, WW introduced a point-based value system for foods and drinks relative to their fiber, fat, and calorie content. This system has been overhauled multiple times, the most recent being the introduction of the SmartPoints system in 2015.
SmartPoints allocates different point values to foods based on calorie, protein, fat, and sugar contents. Each subscriber of WW is given a set amount of daily points. This number is based on the dieter’s age, height, gender, weight loss goals, and other personal factors. To reach their desired weight, the dieters must stay below their daily points. An average SmartPoints value is around 23 daily points.
Unhealthy foods are allocated a higher point amount, while healthier foods are lower in points. In the new SmartPoints system, some foods, such as salmon, vegetables, chicken breasts, eggs, and beans, are actually worth 0 points.
Examples of other point values include:
Beef = 4 points
Pork = 3 points
1 slice of bread = 2 points
1 tsp butter = 5 points
1 oz chocolate = 8 points
1 cup orange juice = 6 points
1 slice pizza = 10-16 points
As demonstrated by the example points, no foods are off-limits on the Weight Watchers dietary system. But by allotting more points to less healthy foods, a WW dieter is limited in how much they can consume. Moreover, by allocating healthier foods as 0 points, dieters are encouraged to consume whole, unprocessed foods.
Weight Watchers Benefits:
Weight Watchers is a very adaptable and flexible weight-loss plan. Unlike keto or the carnivore diet, dieters are still allowed to eat their favorite cheat foods, albeit in lower quantities. Less restrictive diets are proven to be more effective than diets with hard rules and constraints. A restrictive diet can also lead to anxiousness, guilt, overeating, and weight gain in the long run.
WW also still allows dieters to enjoy their favorite foods and eat what they please at restaurants. The point system is also great for people with dietary restrictions or food allergies. As the dieter has control over how they spend their SmartPoints.
Weight Watchers also does a great job in facilitating community amongst their members. Weight Watchers has 24/7 chat support and a flourishing online community. They have also organized local community meetings for dieters to engage with fellow members in person. Not only will a dieting community help keep you accountable, dieting with others has been proven to be more effective.
Weight Watchers Drawbacks:
Because of the great flexibility of the Weight Watchers program, there are some drawbacks. To follow the SmartPoints system, you must track and log every item of food you consume. This can be tedious and time-consuming. For some, logging every bite they take can be a harmful practice. A 2017 study found that calorie counting can lead to symptoms of eating disorders.
Weight Watchers is also expensive. Plans start at $176 per year and range up to $360.
Further, due to the leniency of the Weight Watchers plan, dieters are not required to eat a balance of foods from the different groups. Without guidelines expressing the importance of eating a diversified diet, WW followers may become deficient in some nutrients.
Your Genes & Weight Watchers:
While Weight Watchers has strengths in its flexibility and adaptability, the dietary plan does not account for genetic variances. As described in our blogs on the carnivore, keto, vegan, and high carb diets, your genes determine how different diets will work for you.
For those with a genetic reaction to gluten, eating bread, even in small amounts, will wreak havoc on your body and prevent weight loss. For people with genetic variations that prevent the absorption of certain vitamins and minerals, following a broad WW plan can lead to nutrient deficiencies.
Genes that impact your diet include:
CLTCL1 gene- This gene directly impacts how quickly glucose will be metabolized and leave the blood. Some variants of the CLTCL1 gene allow glucose transporters to move quickly through muscles and fat, causing lower blood sugar deviation between meals. This allows people with the variant to eat a diet higher in carbs.
APOE gene- APOE gene provides the body with instructions for making a protein that impacts your metabolism of cholesterol. The APOE4 variant causes people to be better suited for a high-carb, low-fat diet. This variant causes a high-fat diet to be equivalent to a high-cholesterol diet, thus making carbs more beneficial.
PEMT gene- allows you to naturally create choline, which is essential for liver function. If you have certain variants of the PEMT gene, you are more likely to develop a choline deficiency. A deficiency in choline is linked to fat buildup in the liver. Those with a PEMT variation should take a choline supplement or prioritize consuming eggs and other high choline foods such as liver.
PPARG gene- plays a major role in the development of Type 2 diabetes and lipid and glucose metabolism. This gene is a nuclear transcription that is involved in regulating our circadian rhythm, fat storage, and insulin resistance. Some variants of the PPARG can lead to obesity of Type 2 Diabetes with a diet high in saturated fats. For those without the variance, weight loss can be increased on a diet low in omega-6s and saturated fats.
APOA2 gene- known as the “eat fat, get fat” gene, it also regulates appetite. With variations in the APOA2 gene, you may not feel full and consume more calories on a diet full of saturated fats. The APOA2 gene affects how you process saturated fats and having variations in the gene will increase BMI, abdominal fat, and cholesterol. Those with APOA2 variations should avoid eating foods high in saturated fats to increased risks.
TCF7L2 gene- is strongly linked to the advancement of Type 2 diabetes. Some variants of the gene can increase your risk of diabetes by 16-21%. This gene is also a strong predictor for future development of Type 2 diabetes, as it reduced glucose-stimulated insulin release. For those with a TCF7L2 variant, a diet high in carbohydrates could easily lead to Type 2 diabetes, increased BMI, and higher blood pressure.
FTO gene- works in the regulation of ghrelin, the hunger hormone. Variations in this gene result in constant hunger and certain variations have been linked to a higher BMI. Studies have found that people eating a diet high in carbohydrates or fat, those with the FTO variant had a higher risk of obesity. For those with an FTO variant, adding protein has been found to mitigate food cravings.
Dr. Johnson’s Take:
While Weight Watchers has proven to be an effective way to lose and keep off weight, the dietary plan does not account for everyone’s unique genetic variations. The only way to truly know what diet is best for you is through genomic testing.
Through DNA testing, we can precisely identify the patterns and imbalances of your unique metabolism and use nutrients to suppress the expression of disease, illness, and other unhealthy patterns. If you're interested in genomic testing, click here to learn more! Or contact our office at email@example.com.
The Johnson Center for Health services patients in-person in our Blacksburg and Virginia Beach / Norfolk locations. We also offer telemedicine for residents of Virginia and North Carolina!