By Dr. Randa Ragy
DNA is the code in your cells. It is the richest but also most complex treasure of information that we’ve ever attempted to understand. Throughout the course of the 20th century we gained a firm grasp of the basics of biological inheritance: how genes are passed from one generation to another and how they encode the proteins that all life is built of.
Nutrition DNA as a new test
DNA testing has already been used by many people to help trace their ancestry, find their biological parents, and discover genetic dispositions to certain life-threatening diseases, but now the familiar spit-in-a-tube DNA sampling method has another purpose. DNA nutrition testing is a recent innovation for finding your own specific right diet. It can be applied to anyone regardless of age. However, it is not carried out under the age of 18 as a default.
What is a DNA test?
Experts in the world of diet, health, weight loss, and fitness are turning to DNA testing for a more accurate picture of your body’s disposition toward foods and fitness for better results. With DNA testing, you can tailor your nutrition and fitness plan to fit your individual genetic makeup. While choosing a diet plan based on your genetic makeup may seem somewhat too futuristic to be real, it’s really not a major stretch of the imagination to consider there being a genetic tie to weight gain. After all, obesity has already been proven to have genetic variants. So, these tests just take things one step further, exploring your body type and your genetic makeup to determine what your triggers are.
DNA testing and weight loss
The main concept behind DNA testing for optimal nutrition and weight loss is that your body responds differently to various stimulants (specifically food and exercise) than someone else’s body. Since your DNA sequencing holds loads of information about you including your genetic disposition toward diseases, sleep patterns etc. It’s not surprising that researchers are finding the information you need to understand which foods are best for your body too. Your genomes can tell researchers this, and in turn, they can tell you which foods are helpful to you for trimming down and which ones are preventing weight loss, how much of each sort of food your body needs and the proper food combinations to reach the optimal BMI and overall health goals. It can also detect any deficiencies you might have and what you need to cut out of your diet that is keeping you from reaching your optimal health and wellbeing. This includes how your body responds to carbs and or fats and what is the best macronutrient percentage that fits your unique body. It helps you to make right choices to fit within your lifestyle.
The results will provide you with food recommendations, menu plans, and meal ideas. The suggestions are made up of foods that will help you achieve your goals. What’s more, DNA testing is being used to determine which exercise routines will yield the most results for you as well, whether it’s HIIT (high-intensity interval training) or weight lifting. The truth is that your body will respond to the right workout routine for it, and not respond as well to the wrong one. In a nut- shell, results will determine which exercises will get your body moving so that you can maximize that gym time and sculpt your body the way you want.
The process varies depending on the service provider of your choice. You will simply provide a saliva sample by swabbing the inside of your cheek, putting it in a provided tube and sending for testing. In some cases, you can also send a blood sample collected simply by a needle prick. The reports usually take a few weeks to reach you back. Various companies will track different areas, but in general, DNA testing will register as many as 32 different genetic markers, including areas that affect weight loss, nutrition, allergies, food sensitivities, lactose and gluten intolerance, coffee sensitivity and overall fitness. There are numerous companies that offer DNA testing, but not all of them will give you the right information you need for diet and weight loss planning. You have to look for ones that specifically test for these factors. It’s also important to recognize that personalized genetics companies differ in their testing methods, the scientific basis for those tests and how they translate results into advice for you to follow.
How is the information used?
The information the test provides should be used to correct lifestyle interventions to match the individual genetic makeup which should lead to achieving optimal health goals.
While some of the info provided can be a game-changer for some people in terms of their compliance to better habits, the directness of the advice, claims appear to be largely over-hyped. In addition, genetics are only a small part of the story. How you live your life, the kind of diet you have, whether you have any infections or you are under high stress, if you live in a polluted environment – all these factors collectively have a significant effect.
There’s still significant research to be done in order to fully maximize this type of diet planning, and even with the most accurate results, at the end of the day, you will still have to practice self-control and discipline to achieve your health goals.
Bottom line, DNA nutrition testing is an incredibly eye-opening experience, one I believe will enlighten you for the rest of your life. However, with slightly different methods for sequencing genes and the scientific understanding of gene expression still in its infancy, there are a lot of conclusions left up to interpretation.
With or without DNA testing, my advice stays the same. Whatever your health goal is, whether for keeping a healthy weight, avoiding cancer, lowering the risk of heart diseases or diabetes; eat plenty of fruits and vegetables, don’t eat too much meat, choose whole grains over processed flour, cut back on sugar and salt, exercise 3-4 times a week, sleep well and practice relaxation techniques to release stress.
Dr. Randa Ragy
Clinical and Holistic Nutritionist