Genetically-tailored health plans may sound like something out of science-fiction, but they’ve become a reality. Genetic testing was once reserved for inherited diseases and serious illnesses like cancer. But in recent years, there’s been a wave of studies investigating how our genes affect our everyday lives. In particular, how our genes affect our response to different diets.
Traditional dietary guidelines are based on the assumption that One Size Fits All, but it’s easy to see that this approach doesn’t work. Every individual is different and each body works differently. A diet that works well for one person can fail for another, and the foods that make one person gain weight might not affect another person in the same way.
Genetics allows us to identify why these different responses exist. These insights can then be used to develop dietary recommendations based on someone’s unique genetic profile.
How do DNA markers make a difference?
One example comes from the FTO gene, otherwise known as the ‘fat gene’. One variant of this gene means that you have a tendency not to feel full after eating and you are more likely to become overweight.
A 2012 randomised controlled trial assigned one of four diets— each with differing proportions of fat, protein and carbohydrate— to 742 obese people. They found that people with the at-risk variant of the FTO gene lost more weight on a protein-rich diet compared to people with a different genetic result.
Similar studies have been done for other genes. If you have a variation of the ADIPOQ gene, then the classic method of eating less and moving more is the best way to slim down. But if you have a variant of the PPARG gene, adopting a low-fat diet with emphasis on omega-3 might be more beneficial to help with weight loss . Studies like these are probably just the tip of the iceberg, with more studies expected to accumulate in the near future.
Do DNA-based plans work better?
For some genetic markers there is strong evidence that depending on the genetic variation an individual can lose more or less weight if they stick to a certain diet over a long period of time.
In addition, several studies have examined the topic of personalised dietary advice more generally, and the results look promising. The studies found that people who are given personalised nutritional advice are more motivated to make better choices for their health and follow their health plans. As for any diet, following the plan is essential for it to work.
In the world of sports, it’s also been found that athletes who followed a training plan based on their genetics improved their performance more than athletes following generic plans or plans mis-matched to their DNA.
Despite these encouraging outcomes, there’s an important caveat here. Genetically-tailored plans need to be developed by experienced and qualified professionals. Otherwise, you can end up getting the wrong genetic interpretation and the wrong recommendations. Choosing a trusted company with strong, scientific foundations is the best way to guarantee that a genetically-tailored plan is relevant, reliable and useful.
A Piece of the Puzzle
A genetically-tailored approach can be useful for every single person. We are all different. We eat differently, exercise differently and react to medicines in different ways. The concept of personalised health plans makes perfect sense.
But your DNA is complex because large number of genes can work together to influence an outcome and currently we only have reliable research into a fraction of them.
Finally, you must remember that DNA is only one piece of the puzzle. Your lifestyle, environment and history all play crucial roles in determining who you are and how you act. So, even though your DNA can give you insights into what makes you different and what you can do to become the best version of yourself, it’s not a silver bullet.
Once you understand your DNA, you need the dedication and commitment to put your new-found knowledge into practice in order to get the results that you want.