genetics

Can genetic testing help make you healthier?

If you’ve read this blog for awhile this won’t be new to you, but for someone popping on this little spot on the internet for the first time I’ll repeat it. I’ve struggled with my weight for as long as I can remember. I’ve always been chubby. I smell food and I put on weight. When I looked in the mirror at the start of the year I was horrified by how big I’d gotten. I started with a personal trainer and became obsessed with what I was eating and how my work outs were going. Yet every time I got on the scale I’d put on weight and was ballooning regardless. Eventually my personal trainer convinced me to go see a doctor. I eventually decided to do so. After spending a small fortune on various tests I was sat down and told my body had some issues. I’m not going to go into all the details of my illness here because I’m still coming to terms with it. I’m on chronic medication now and have had to make some really big diet changes. But I feel so much better for it and that’s important.

Before I agreed to the tests, Wardah, my personal trainer, told me about some tests she’d had done. Part of the testing looked at your genetic make up and determined if you were pre-disposed to certain illnesses and what diet suited you best. The tests also could give you an indication of what exercise best suited your genetic make up. Obviously when it comes to genetics its not all cut and dry. The best way to explain it is that you have a nerf gun, your genetics dictate that you may have a nerf bullet in said gun, but it doesn’t necessarily mean the bullet will shoot someone. Make sense?

DNAlysis

genetics

DNAnalysis is a biotech company in Johannesburg. I reached out to them because Wardah and I were worried, at the time, that the exercise plans and diet I was following could potentially be counter-intuitive to my weight loss goals. The company sends through a home testing kit that is really easy to use. You follow the instructions and then send your DNA sample back the lab. The company then rings you and you go through for a consultation.

An interesting one for me was that between taking the sample and going in for my consultation, I received the results of my tests back with my doctor who identified the concerns I mentioned earlier. So I was curious to see what the genetics test came back with. I met with a dietician to walk me through what my genes revealed about my eating habits. A DNA Health test was also conducted which highlights genetic pre-disposition to chronic illness.

The results

genetics

I’m not going to break down my individual results. For the sake of this post let me highlight what each test consisted of. The DNA Diet test used my genetic data to determine differences in how my body could possibly respond to a variety of nutrients, diets and exercise while DNA Health gave me insight into chronic illness and whether my genetics could mean I was pre-disposed to them. The tests themselves are extremely confusing to read on their own, you’re sent the full 12 page document with results that look a little bit like this:

DNAnalysis

Confusing right? Let me try explain this: your own swab is collected by the lab that then uses Polymerase Chain Reaction to generate sufficient quantities to analyse your genetic material. The tests identify specific and unique DNA sequences. Some of these sequences have been studied in detail and evidence is able to link the polymorphisms with certain responses to diet and exercise. By identifying the polymorphisms the tests are able to qualitatively assess certain factors that may influence your weight management or potentially lead to health risks. So, again, consider this a bit of “if x possibly y” type test than a “y will occur because of x.” With me? Good.

Sitting with a consultant was a big help. Each of my results were explained to me in simple and easy to understand language. We mainly focused on the areas that proved to be more prominent in my genetics or things that concerned me. Following an hour of discussion I had a better understanding of how my genes might influence my life. A big one for me, because my gran died with Dementia and Alzheimers while my mom’s side of the family have had two deaths from cancer (and my mom is cancer survivor), was my genetic make up’s predisposition to Alzheimers and various Cancers. I received some insight into this which I found useful.

The DNA Diet results pretty much confirmed that I was exercising in a manner that my genetics seemed pre-disposed to. Ironically, my genetics were also pre-disposed to following the current change in diet I’ve had to implement because of the medical tests received and analysed by the doctor. The drastic lifestyle change actually seemed to be completely in line with what my genetic make up would find “optimal” in terms of eating habits. I’ll be honest, the DNA Diet test results didn’t tell me things I didn’t already know about my body. And some of it was a bit off, but again genetics just highlight what you’re pre-disposed to not what is necessarily right in how your body reacts. I found the DNA Health test really interesting. Especially when I linked it back to some of the issues my doctor had uncovered via his medical tests. Certain polymorphisms in my genes simply aid the current deficits my body suffers from now. While my genes aren’t the cause, they’re a contributing factor – which was important to know as it just hit home that I need to take my new health changes more seriously.

Final thoughts

genetics

For the most part it seems my folks did a pretty decent job. Genetically I’m not overtly pre-disposed to anything horrible or high risk, though there are a few red flags (currently closer to a soft Amber colour though) that I’ll be mindful of. I’m really glad I got these tests done, especially after finding out about my current medical condition as it allows me to really tailor my diet to my health. I’ve learnt far more about my body which can only be a bonus. I don’t think this is a stand alone solution to diet and exercise. You’ll need to do what I did and use them as part of a larger plan. It is also really helpful if your trainer and doctor have access to the results as well because they can use them in unison with their own findings. It’s really worthwhile to get a deeper understanding of how your body works.

If you want to find out more about DNAlysis click here.

Disclosure: I was gifted my tests and subsequent consultation.

No Comments

Leave a Reply