The future of health care and the prevention of illness and disease lie in personalising our lifestyles to match our unique DNA profiles. Lifestyle habits established over a period of time ultimately affect our health status into old age, and we may have unwittingly been putting ourselves at risk for any number of health related problems.

The exciting news is that testing is now available to map our DNA genotypes and determine our susceptibility to unsuitable lifestyle factors. Based on this information one can plan a personalised diet and exercise programme tailored to suit your individual needs and aimed to achieve the best possible outcome for your health.

The testing involves analysing one’s DNA from a simple cheek cell swab. We all have different genotypes (or genetic codes), that act as blue prints for what we are all about, for example why some of us have blue eyes and some have brown eyes, why some people are tall and some short. This goes beyond basic features and extends to determining whether we may get cancer, become overweight, have high cholesterol or be a good runner. The way our genes are coded pre-determines our potential as well as our risk.

Having a certain genotype does not mean that you are definitely going to suffer from a predetermined condition or become a good runner. However, if you are aware of your DNA makeup, you can identify what factors will affect this predisposition and then adjust your lifestyle accordingly. Knowing which lifestyle factors to avoid or to focus on will act as triggers to our genotype (gene expression) and influence whether we do get cancer, become overweight, have high cholesterol or become a good runner.

There are four types of genetic testing that can be done; DNA Diet, DNA Health, DNA Sport and DNA Oestrogen.

Diet is a major lifestyle factor that plays a role in how our genes are expressed. The DNA Diet gives detailed insight into how each of us should be eating and exercising in order to lose weight the most efficiently. The results will tell you whether you must follow a low fat, low carbohydrate or Mediterranean type diet, if you are sensitive to carbohydrates, your rate of fat absorption, how you metabolise fat, whether you can lose weight easily, your metabolic rate, your responsiveness to exercise for weight loss as well as your sleep patterns. Dietary advice based on genetics is more useful than generic diets that more often than not end up in a roller coaster ride of hit and miss eating habits. Based on your DNA results, a qualified professional can prescribe a suitable eating plan and lifestyle changes.

The DNA Health provides results for genetic variations known to have an effect on health and susceptibility to chronic disease. Diet and lifestyle choices have a significant effect on the expression of these genes, but this is dependent on early detection and intervention. The results provide insight into cholesterol levels, bone health, cancer risk, blood pressure, inflammation, insulin resistance, anti-oxidative capacity as well as sensitivity to stress, salt, lactose and caffeine.

The DNA Sport tests the genetic variants that influence injury risk, speed of recovery, strength training potential as well as endurance ability. The test is suitable for both the elite and recreational athlete looking to maximise their fitness potential and reach peak levels of conditioning. The results provide insight into areas that impact training responsiveness, sporting performance, optimal exercise selection as well as injury and recovery strategies.

The DNA Oestrogen indicates gene variants that have an impact on how oestrogen is metabolised. Research has shown that an increased lifetime exposure to oestrogen is a strong risk factor in the development of breast and ovarian cancer. Improving oestrogen metabolism is also beneficial to women who suffer from oestrogen dominant conditions such as endometriosis, premenstrual syndrome and uterine fibroid tumours.

For some, knowing this kind of information may be tempting fate. However for those willing to invest in their as well as their childrens’ future, DNA testing provides the blueprint for the types of lifestyles that each of us need to be living to ensure our best possible outcome. The more time that each of us has to implement these lifestyle changes the greater the effect on this outcome.

Published by: Kerryn Gibson, Registered Dietitian, Specialised in Sport and Paediatric Nutrition

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