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How effective are DNA test kits really in improving your health and fitness?

How effective are DNA test kits really in improving your health and fitness?

How effective are DNA test kits really in improving your health and fitness?

The latest trend in the world of health and fitness is to take a DNA test to find out how our bodies respond to food and physical activity.

But how accurate and effective are these kits?

Sports fanatic Mandy Mayer, 56, worked out several times a week but felt she had reached a point where she was no longer moving forward.


Her personal trainer suggested she try the DNAFit test, which assesses the body's genetic response to key foods and different types of exercise.

"I just threw myself into it," she explains. "I thought I would love to have this kind of knowledge."

After sending a sample of her saliva, she received a report on her physical condition and diet last January. She made an impression on him.


"I thought, wow! I was told that I don't tolerate caffeine or processed foods very well, and that I respond better to resistance training than anything else."


Three months later, she has reduced her size from 12 to 10 and has lost several kilos. She attributes it to a greater knowledge about her genetic code.


"It was definitely because of the test," says Mandy, who lives in Market Harborough, England.

"It's helped me stick to the right training and make small changes to my diet."

A growing number of start-ups, such as 23andMe, FitnessGenes, UBiome, DNAFit, Orig3n and Habit are targeting this market, promising that these mail-in tests can change your life for the better.

Some researchers believe that global sales of such kits will reach $10 billion by 2022.

But how do they work and how reliable are they?

Avi Lasarow, CEO of DNAFit, explains that who we are is a combination of what we have from birth - genetics - and how we live - our environment.


"The biggest environmental factor that we can control in our daily lives is our diet," he says, "so by knowing more about the static part, the genetics, we can better modify the other part that we do control."

He gives the example of the CYP1A2 gene, which controls about 95% of caffeine metabolism.

"Some people metabolize fast, others slow, depending on their variants of this gene. Once you know this you can make a better informed decision about your caffeine intake than you could without this genetic data."


Better decisions?

Robin Smith, CEO of Orig3n, a company that offers various health and wellness-oriented DNA tests that cost between $29 and $149, says the results can help people make more informed decisions about what works for them. organism.


"If a person's DNA suggests that they are prone to vitamin B deficiency, they can pay more attention to this in their daily life."


"Knowing what your DNA says about your body's food sensitivities, food breakdown, hunger, weight, vitamins, allows you to become a better informed consumer."


“You can be smarter about what you choose to eat, and what supplements you choose to buy, saving time, energy and money and achieving the results you want faster,” she says.


This is what the marketers are saying, but some genetic experts are concerned that the effectiveness of these kits is being exaggerated.


"I'm not against people being able to access genetic information about themselves if they want to, as long as the results and limitations of the tests are clearly explained," says Dr Jess Buxton, a geneticist at the University College of London.


"But I do think that the amount of useful information that personalized health tests can offer is currently very limited," she says.

This is because "we still know very little about the effect that SNPs [genetic variations called single nucleotide polymorphisms] and other types of genetic variations have on people's health."

The amount of useful information that personalized health tests can offer is currently very limited."

Jess Buxton, geneticist at University College London

"Although there are some disorders, such as lactose intolerance, for which the genetic variations are very clear and well understood, the same cannot be said for most other disorders," explains the expert.


"These [genetic variations] interact with each other and with non-genetic factors in ways that we don't fully understand, so it's impossible to make accurate predictions based on information about just a few of the genetic variants involved, as many of these tests do."

understand metabolism

That said, some studies suggest that this type of analysis can work.

For example, the University of Trieste and the IRCCS Institute Burlo Garofolo de SaMaternal and Child lud in Italy found that study participants following a diet based on genetic analysis lost 33% more weight than the control group.

Some start-ups don't just rely on a person's genetic code to make diet and exercise recommendations.


The San Francisco-based company Habit's home kit includes a series of DNA samples, blood tests and a shake so the company can measure how well you metabolize fats, carbohydrates and proteins.


"Unlike other home tests that only measure DNA, Habit looks at how the whole body works," explains founder and CEO Neil Grimmer.


Thierry AttiasHabit, he says, measures more than 60 blood and genetic biomarkers related to nutrition, biometrics and lifestyle choices, to make personalized nutrition recommendations for each individual.

"Personalized recommendations should be based on your entire biology, not just DNA," says Grimmer.

One early adopter of this technology is Thierry Attias, president of Momentum Sports Group, a company that runs the UnitedHealthcare cycling team.


"Even though I bike several times a week, I'm a few pounds overweight, and I was curious to learn more about myself," says Attias, who lives in Oakland, California.


He discovered that he is sensitive to caffeine, that his diet should include more vegetables, and that his body is slow to process fat.


Although Habit was still in its testing phase, he opted to receive personalized ready-to-eat meals from the company for three days.


"Something interesting happened," he says. "I lost 4 pounds in just a few days. I learned about portion sizes and how many more vegetables I need at each meal."


In two months he has lost five kilos.

But do we really need a kit to tell us that we need to eat more vegetables and less fat as part of a healthy and balanced diet, recommendations that have been around for decades?


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