July 14, 2016

MILWAUKEE, WIS.  – A study underway at the Texas Biomedical Research Institute in partnership with Wisconsin-based TOPS Club Inc.® (Take Off Pounds Sensibly®), the nonprofit weight-loss support organization, may unlock the mystery of why some people gain weight – and cannot lose it – while others have success at taking weight off and keeping it off.

Studies at the TOPS® Nutrition and Obesity Research Center at Texas Biomed focus on the role of how genetic predisposition to metabolic changes, nutritional preferences, appetite regulation, food intake and choice relate to obesity. This research builds on previous studies supported by TOPS that have led to the discovery of several “obesity genes.”

Through an electronic questionnaire, available at, volunteers, who do not have to be TOPS members, provide eating habits, daily routines, and history of weight gain and loss. Some have been invited to participate in further research by providing a saliva sample of their DNA, which will be collected during the TOPS annual conference taking place in Orlando in July.

According to Michael Olivier, Ph.D., co-director of the Center and Chair of the Department of Genetics at Texas Biomed, the information collected will help researchers identify what has helped people lose weight successfully, even as others struggle.

“Over the past decade, we have identified numerous genes that contribute to obesity, but ultimately, we are still unclear about what predisposes one individual to gain weight and another to stay slim,” Olivier said. “We still only know a small part, and are learning more every day about how our body works, and how our genes affect this.

“What we are hoping for is not a miracle pill, but data that can eventually help our children or grandchildren find effective ways to lose and control weight.”

The Genome Registry also asks questions about the ability of individuals to control their food intake in the current environment of constantly available energy-rich food.

“Genes are not the sole culprit,” explains Anthony Comuzzie, Ph.D., co-director of the Center. “Environmental factors such as diet and exercise also play a major role. Two major changes have occurred over the last four to five decades: changes in our environment that make calories easy to come by (for example, an increased number of fast-food eateries) as well as technological advances such as garage door openers and remote controls, that make it more and more difficult for us to burn calories in our daily lives. Many urban settings are also not conducive to walking or other types of physical activity. As a result, even those without a genetic predisposition to weight gain find it increasingly difficult to keep themselves from putting on pounds.”

In addition to the Genome Registry, the Center is utilizing the extensive history of positive weight management outcomes TOPS has documented over the past several decades.

TOPS’ involvement in medical research began in 1966 when the organization donated $250,000 ($1.6 million in today’s dollars) to The Medical College of Wisconsin, initiating the Obesity and Metabolic Research Program.  Since then, TOPS has contributed more than $8.3 million toward obesity research.

“The TOPS Genome Registry project builds on TOPS’ 50+ year commitment to support research that forwards the understanding and treatment of obesity,” said TOPS President Barb Cady. “The Genome Registry is a further opportunity to help scientists discover linkages that could one day help end the obesity epidemic in America.”

Texas Biomed, TOPS, and TOPS Center for Obesity and Metabolic Research at the Medical College of Wisconsin will continue to share information on research projects to advance discoveries in the field.

About TOPS

TOPS Club Inc.® (Take Off Pounds Sensibly®) is the original weight-loss support and wellness education organization. Founded in 1948, TOPS is the only nonprofit, noncommercial weight-loss organization of its kind. TOPS promotes successful weight management with a “Real People. Real Weight Loss.®” philosophy that combines support from others at weekly chapter meetings, healthy eating, regular exercise, and wellness information. TOPS has more than 125,000 members – male and female, age seven and older – in thousands of chapters throughout the United States and Canada.

Visitors are welcome to attend their first TOPS meeting free of charge. Membership is affordable at just $32 per year in the U.S. and $36 per year in Canada, plus nominal chapter fees. To find a local chapter, view or call 800-932-8677.


Dr. Michael Olivier, Director of the TOPS Nutrition and Obesity Research Center at Texas Biomedical Research Institute and Dr. and Anthony Comuzzie, Co-Director of the Center, presented at the TOPS International Recognition Days (IRD) July 14-16, at Disney’s Coronado Springs Resort, Orlando.


FOR MORE TOPS CLUB, INC. INFORMATION, CONTACT: Dave Amoroso • Ron Sonntag Public Relations, Inc. 414-354-0200 x108 •