What’s the best diet for weight loss?
Will saturated fats increase my cholesterol levels?
Will drinking coffee increase my risk of heart disease?
What’s the best fitness plan to build muscle?
We get a lot of these type of questions, but our response always remains the same: there is no universal answer that can be applied to all of us, and there’s no one-size-fits all diet.
So, the answer to any of these questions is unique to each one of us and lies in our distinct genetic blueprint.
Aren’t we lucky that we live in a time when we can get some possible answers with a simple saliva DNA test done right at home and delivered in less than 4 weeks? A DNA diet and fitness plan tailored to your own individual needs, it’s pretty cool if you ask us.
WHAT IS DNA TESTING?
Going back to our basic biology, our DNA or deoxyribonucleic acid contains all our genetic material that is present in every single cell of our body (over 30 trillion of them). DNA allows us to grow, reproduce and function, and all of our DNA makes up what’s called the genome.
It’s also pretty crazy that our human DNA is 99.8% the same and the differences between us amount to only the remaining 0.2%!
The Human Genome Project that helped map our entire genetic code was completed in 2003, and since then our understanding of the human body and our genes has flourished.
We now have DNA testing not only to look for our ancestry, but to identify our response to various forms of medications, as well as to help us make more informed diet and exercise choices.
WHAT CAN A DNA TEST TELL YOU
Genes can tell you anything from the foods you crave, to how well your body metabolizes different macro and micro nutrients such as carbs, proteins, fats, vitamins and minerals. You can also know how likely you are to react to caffeine, lactose and gluten all based on those little differences in your genetics.
Genetic testing can help you understand what your body is best suited to in terms of diet and exercise. An intensive HIIT or weight training program may not be suitable for everyone and the ‘no pain, no gain’ rule definitely doesn’t apply here.
So, how does all of that help you?
Knowing your genetic variances, strengths and possible risks can:
- Allow you to find a diet that works with your body.
- Give you much better fitness results, with less effort.
- Help you identify the supplements that your body needs (and the forms that work best with your body).
- Let you know what possible diseases or conditions you’re at a higher risk for so you can implement preventative health strategies and reduce the risks that can be associated with them (heart disease, diabetes, stroke, Alzheimer’s etc.).
To sum it up, eating and exercising for your DNA, is a great way to develop a preventative health plan or step-by-step roadmap to match exactly what your body needs on a biological level.
WHAT DNA CAN’T TELL YOU
DNA testing is still at its infancy and the science is continuously evolving with new discoveries every day. It’s important to know that while a DNA test can help you formulate a personalized plan, it’s not a diagnostic tool.
What common DNA tests for are something called SNPs or Single Nucleotide Polymorphisms, pronounced as “snips”. These SNPs are common genetic variations among people which can affect how a gene normally functions. It simply means that if your genes associated with a trait or disease are not functioning optimally then you have an increased likelihood or a genetic predisposition. This doesn’t guarantee that you will develop a condition, trait or disease.
The good news?
These genes can be turned “ON” or “OFF” through diet, exercise, sleep, stress management and overall lifestyle, and this is what we know as epigenetics. So, while we have little control over our genetic makeup, we can definitely take control over our health by making the best nutrition and lifestyle choices for our body by knowing what it responds to best.
CHOOSING A GENETIC TEST
I have been fascinated by DNA testing and genetics for quite some time now, and it was finally time to take the plunge, and learn how my genes can help me formulate my own DNA diet plan. I had my DNA test done through dnaPower, a Canadian based company that tests for the most important genes that have been scientifically proven using over 1,200 scientific papers on gene traits, with a highly experienced lab that offers privacy and encryption for all data collected.
What I love about dnaPower is that the report is really well structured and easy to read so you’re not looking through a bunch of codes that you can’t understand. There’s even practical everyday tips on how to take power over your health, and if you choose the totalPower report then you get a 45-minute one-on-one consultation with a professional to help you understand the results even better and give you advice on where to start, and what you need to focus on to achieve the greatest results.
Of course, I had to go for the full panel of tests with totalPower which comes with 4 detailed reports (over 150 pages):
1) dietPower including Diet Management, Weight Response, Food Tolerances, Food Taste & Preferences, and Vitamins & Supplements. This includes things like:
- Your ability to process carbohydrates, saturated and unsaturated fats as well as how well your body regulates HDL & LDL cholesterol.
- How well your body burns stored fats and how well you’d respond to a high protein diet for weight loss.
- How well your body metabolizes alcohol, caffeine, gluten and lactose.
- How well you convert, process and absorb different vitamins and minerals such as vitamin A, C, D, E, B6, folate, calcium, iodine, omegas and more!
2) healthPower including detoxification, hormone health, inflammation response, and methylation. This includes how well you metabolize estrogens, detox through different phases, how effectively your immune system fights inflammation and much more.
3) brainPower including genetic risk for Alzheimer’s, Parkinson’s and depression, ability to recover from concussion, and emotional eating susceptibility during stressful periods.
4) fitPower including how well suited you are to endurance versus power activities, your ligament, tendon and muscle strength and predisposition to injury as well as how well you regulate blood pressure, oxygen update and more.
In short, you want to choose a test that’s comprehensive, science-based, provides easy to read and interpret reports, protects your data and gives you the option to schedule a one-on-one consultation.
MY SURPRISING RESULTS & DNA DIET PLAN OF ACTION
When you take a DNA test, you expect to find out or confirm some things you may have already known. For example, I have always known that milk makes me feel bloated and gassy, so I had self-concluded a long time ago that I am lactose intolerant and have avoided milk since. I know that I’m ok with some fermented dairy products such as aged cheeses and yogurt. Hence, it was no surprise when my genetic test came back that my genes are associated with a reduced ability to digest lactose.
A DNA test also allows you to learn some new things about your body like my genes have trouble metabolizing beta-carotene and converting it to vitamin A in the body. Therefore, I need to eat more vitamin A rich foods and forms from animal products such as eggs, cod fish and liver which may be better absorbed.
And then there are those results that completely surprise you! My genetic risk for Ischemic Stroke, most commonly due to a blood clot is 100%.
There’s no doubt that when you initially see such a result, it’s like a bombshell has been dropped. It’s hard not to have an emotional response, even when you know that this is not a diagnostic tool and simply having the gene doesn’t mean that you will get the disease.
I had to remind myself of that and remember that diet and lifestyle have a big impact on whether those genes are turned “ON” or “OFF”.
In terms of stroke, the biggest risk factors include smoking, high blood pressure, obesity and being diabetic. I currently don’t have any of those risk factors and I aim to exercise, eat a diet rich in whole foods and healthy fats, drink plenty of water and try to manage my stress. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), up to 80% of strokes can be prevented with diet and lifestyle choices. So, this motivates me to continue making healthier choices every day!
Here are some other highlights from my test:
- One of the results that made me happy is that I’m able to process carbohydrates and regulate sugar through blood insulin normally. With the low carb movement, I have always been tempted to try going paleo or keto, but I know that my body feels best with some amount of healthy and whole carbs. That doesn’t mean that I won’t get diabetes if I were to eat a diet high in processed and refined carbs and sugar though. It seems that I simply have an advantage with my genes, but diet and lifestyle still plays the bigger role. So, I will continue to enjoy healthy whole grain carbs including quinoa, brown rice, a sourdough toast with my breakfast along with beans and starchy root veggies.
- My body doesn’t metabolize caffeine very well, so I will not have more than 1 small cup of coffee per day or opt for decaf.
- My body doesn’t absorb and transport some vitamins and minerals very well such as calcium, iodine, iron and folate so I will aim for more foods that contain them.
- I am more prone to ligament and tendon injuries so I need to focus on lower impact exercises and ensure proper warm up and cool down as well as regular stretching.
- When it comes to hormone health, my body does not metabolize estrogens well, and I need to be extra careful from exposure in food, personal care and household products, as well as add more cruciferous vegetables, healthy fats and seeds to my diet.
- I also have an increased need for vitamin B12 and folate that are required during methylation, a vital process in our body that is needed to make energy, healthy cells as well as help us fight infections and excrete toxins. I will be looking for an appropriate B complex supplement to take periodically. It’s important that it has the active forms of B12 and folate, and not the cheap synthetic versions which are typically added in foods and most commercial supplements.
This is just a highlight of the 150+ page totalPower report that I received. The results have been empowering and I have learned so much about my body and my genetic make-up.
Have you taken a genetic test yet? Let us know what you learned about your body.