New year, new you: Jenny Craig's new weight-loss tool

Find out about the DNA Decoder here.

Jenny Craig’s new advertising campaign promotes a DNA Decoder Plan that directs users toward the best food choices based on their genetic makeup. 

The Carlsbad, Calif. weight-loss company will have dieters first swab their cheeks and send off their genetic material for analysis, before devising a meal and exercise plan. Jenny Craig follows other companies, like DNAfit, for example, which uses clients’ 23andMe data to unlock tailored diets. 

"We know that in a recent survey nearly half of the weight-loss consumers we polled want to utilize their DNA to create a customized weight loss plan," said Monty Sharma, Jenny Craig chief executive officer and president, in an announcement.

As for the broadcast and digital campaign, it features real-people testimonials versus the celebrities dieters of yore, such as Kirstie Alley. 

In one broadcast spot, a featured dieter explains that "getting your DNA tested gives you just that much of an extra advantage." Other campaign endorsers refer to the Jenny Craig microwave-and-munch, prepared-food plan as the "easy button" for weight loss.

Nutritionist and author, Marion Nestle, who writes the popular Food Politics blog and is the Paulette Goddard professor of nutrition, food studies and public health at New York University, has a more wary view of DNA-based dieting.

"I don’t know of any better way to lose weight than to eat less and move more," she said. "How much less? Check a scale every day. If weight isn’t budging, eat even less. This may go more quickly if you replace junk foods with plant foods.

"Beyond that, I cannot imagine that DNA testing will make this any easier unless paying a lot of money acts as an incentive. If having someone interpret your DNA to suggest what you should most cut down on--and you can afford it--go for it. But really, what matters to body weight is calorie balance and consuming fewer calories than you need--from any source--ought to work just fine."

Jenny Craig worked with Denver advertising agency LRXD on the effort. 

In 2020, the company will expand its neighborhood footprint by opening Jenny Craig at Walgreens branches at 100 of the drugstore chain’s locations. 

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