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Weight Loss Strategies and DNA Damage

A group of European researchers have recently published their investigation of the impact of weight loss strategies upon DNA damage. DNA damage was measured using the comet assay.

Obesity is associated with a variety of issues including increased cancer risk, cardiovascular disease and infertility. Recent evidence in mice suggests that a high fat diet leads to induction of DNA damage in internal organs, an important hallmark of cancer. In this study, researchers aimed to investigate if weight loss strategies improve the “integrity of the genetic material”.

The researchers used a mouse model to compare the impact of two different weight loss strategies, either reduced consumption of a Western Diet (WD) or by a high carbohydrate low protein diet (HCLP). An ad libitum Western Diet (AL-WD) designed to reflect food consumption in industrialised Western countries was firstly fed for 14 weeks to induce weight gain. Mice were then divided into 3 subgroups and fed either the WD, 40% restricted WD (40%-R-WD) or the AL-HCLP diet. After 19 weeks, organs and blood were collected, and the comet assay conducted. For full details please see the original publication.

Alkaline comet assay experiments were used to determine DNA damage. The researchers prepared slides according to OECD guidelines for mouse liver, colon, brain, testes and ovaries. All slides were coded and scored blind with scorers being unaware of the slide’s origins. 50 cells per gel were scored using the Comet Assay IV image analysis system, Instem. The % Tail DNA parameter was utilised to determine the level of DNA damage in each sample.







The authors found a “clear tendency toward reduced DNA damage […] in colon, liver, brain, and testes after reduced consumption of the WD. However, none of these effects was significant.” They report that this study shows for the first time that reduced formation of comets in SCGE experiments was “associated with decreased formation of DNA bases and increased activity of NER”. This study indicates that weight loss may prevent obesity-associated adverse health effects due to a reduction of overall DNA damage.

For further findings please see the original publication.


Setayesh, T., Mišík, M., Langie, S. A. S., Godschalk, R., Waldherr, M., Bauer, T., Leitner, S., Bichler, C., Prager, G., Krupitza, G., Haslberger, A., Knasmüller, S., Impact of Weight Loss Strategies on Obesity‐Induced DNA Damage. Mol. Nutr. Food Res. 2019, 1900045.