DNA-based diet and exercise programs are the new trend in preventing disease and achieving optimal health.
A few months ago, my parents took cheek swabs and sent them in for APO E gene genetic testing. Not to learn about their ancestry or something, though — to discover which type of diet and exercise is best for their genetic blueprints.
I thought it sounded a little wacky, but the results were fascinating. More importantly, my parents started feeling so much better after following the diet and exercise plans that were tailored to their genes.
As it turns out, customized diet programs based on DNA results are becoming a trend. Neo.life recently featured an article about a few companies on the cutting edge of the genotype-diet revolution and the scientists who back them.
Peter Jones, a professor at the University of Manitoba, estimates there are dozens of companies worldwide offering bespoke nutritional advice based on customers’ genes, microbiomes, or other factors. Scientists in the field are “getting in line to participate with these companies,” he says , himself included. Jones founded a company called SNPitty, still in its early stages. (The simple genetic variations that these companies usually test for are called single-nucleotide polymorphisms or SNPs, pronounced “snips.”)
This science is exciting but still in its infancy. While the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics acknowledges that it holds promise, they also urge caution in depending on it for routine dietetics and disease prevention, noting that life-threatening health conditions arise from a variety of genetic and environmental causes.
But the idea that our genes can tell us how to eat makes sense. After all, traditional cultures based their diets on the foods that were available to them, and over the centuries they evolved to process those foods more effectively. The last 200 years of industrialization can’t erase millenia of biological evolution, so our genes should be able to tell us what kinds of food are best suited for us.
And honestly, the mind-boggling array of highly specific diets and the enthusiasm of their adherents is evidence enough that some diets work better for some people than others. My sister-in-law, one of the healthiest people I know, feels better when she eats lots of vegetables and grains. She doesn’t do well with a meat-heavy diet. I, on the other hand, get dreadful indigestion and feel lousy when I eat lots of grains. Protein, vegetables, and fruits are the holy triad of foods that make me healthy and happy.
We figured this out through years of trial and error of course, not genetic sequencing. But I bet a DNA-based diet could have saved me from years of choking down granola and oatmeal with a Zantac chaser in an attempt to “eat healthy.” It’s not that granola and oatmeal are unhealthy foods, but they are unhealthy for me.
If nothing else, genetic sequencing can give us a better picture of the diseases we are at risk for and a chance to head them off at the pass, regardless of whether or not we stick to the rigorous diet recommendations. Having advance warning that you’re predisposed to type 2 diabetes or Alzheimer’s might just be the inspiration you need to swear off sugar and avoid those diseases entirely — and that’s definitely worth the price tag and finger prick.