Selection of Antiobesity Medications Based on Phenotypes Enhances Weight Loss: A Pragmatic Trial in an Obesity Clinic

Obesity (Silver Spring). 2021 Apr;29(4):662-671. doi: 10.1002/oby.23120.


Objective: Little is known about the predictors of response to obesity interventions.

Methods: In 450 participants with obesity, body composition, resting energy expenditure, satiety, satiation, eating behavior, affect, and physical activity were measured by validated studies and questionnaires. These variables were used to classify obesity phenotypes. Subsequently, in a 12-month, pragmatic, real-world trial performed in a weight management center, 312 patients were randomly assigned to phenotype-guided treatment or non-phenotype-guided treatment with antiobesity medications: phentermine, phentermine/topiramate, bupropion/naltrexone, lorcaserin, and liraglutide. The primary outcome was weight loss at 12 months.

Results: Four phenotypes of obesity were identified in 383 of 450 participants (85%): hungry brain (abnormal satiation), emotional hunger (hedonic eating), hungry gut (abnormal satiety), and slow burn (decreased metabolic rate). In 15% of participants, no phenotype was identified. Two or more phenotypes were identified in 27% of patients. In the pragmatic clinical trial, the phenotype-guided approach was associated with 1.75-fold greater weight loss after 12 months with mean weight loss of 15.9% compared with 9.0% in the non-phenotype-guided group (difference -6.9% [95% CI -9.4% to -4.5%], P < 0.001), and the proportion of patients who lost >10% at 12 months was 79% in the phenotype-guided group compared with 34% with non-phenotype-guided treatment group.

Conclusions: Biological and behavioral phenotypes elucidate human obesity heterogeneity and can be targeted pharmacologically to enhance weight loss.

Trial registration: NCT03374956.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Anti-Obesity Agents / therapeutic use*
  • Clinical Trials as Topic / methods*
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Obesity / drug therapy*
  • Precision Medicine / methods*
  • Weight Loss / drug effects*


  • Anti-Obesity Agents

Associated data