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Be inspired every day with Living North
Health and beauty
April 2018
Reading time 2 Minutes

We are all the same, but different, and our genes dictate a variety of things, from how we absorb vitamins to how we respond to particular exercise

So it stands to reason it would be helpful to know just what is in our make up.

Our love for personalisation is not just about engraving our initials on everything, from phone cases and clutches to body parts. Personalised training has now graduated from the friendly personal trainer at the gym to all-out DNA testing. 

Once the reserve of top athletes, these at-home saliva testing kits may come with a hefty price tag but on the upside you’ll only ever have to invest once as your DNA can’t change. In the interests of science we signed up to see what it was all about.

DNAFit look at around 50 markers between nutrition and exercise, including recovery times, injury predisposition, strength and endurance markers, and the response to carbohydrates, fats, alcohol and caffeine and lactose intolerance, the DNAFit test will give you clear indicators as to what may, or may not, work for you in terms of training and diet. But, anyone thinking this is a quick health fix will be sorely disappointed. 

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Whilst your DNA markers might indicate you are better at strength training than endurance (shouldn’t you already know that?) it doesn’t tell you how to improve where you are weak. For someone like me who watches long distance runners with envy, or in fact any joggers making their way round the local Park Run who make running look easy, it wasn’t a surprise my make up was biased toward strength rather than endurance. My snapshot overview also implies I have intermediate levels of VO2 max but my genetic variants may result in a raised risk of injury and only an average recovery speed. The advice is to concentrate on strength training – and yet I want to be better at running long distance. Should I just give up? Whilst the test clearly states ‘the results should not change your sporting or fitness goal but rather should help you understand how best for you to reach that goal by taking advantage of your genetic pre-disposition,’ it doesn’t say how. At least next time someone asks me to go on a long run I can safely say ‘but it’s not in my DNA!’.

Whilst some of the information arising from the test may be big news to those not particularly in tune with their health, there is little direct real advice coming out of these tests. Surely you’d have an inkling you may have an issue with lactose intolerance by the way you react after consuming diary products? The test may tell you you have a gene variant which implies a possible sensitivity to lactose, but sadly it can’t tell you whether that means you should avoid all dairy at al costs. It seems that whilst these tests can give you useful pointers there is still some way to go in terms of understanding gene variants and much is still open to interpretation. Genes in fact are only a part of a far more complex health picture, but whilst the testing companies such as DNAFit do acknowledge this, they emphasise that by having a better understanding of your individual genetic make up leads to better educated decisions and an understanding of what to eat and what to avoid is empowering. 

I have yet to find anyone who has taken the test that hasn’t received the advice to increase intake of antioxidants, cruciferous, vitamin D and calcium and reduce their intake of salt. My own results also show a low sensitivity to saturated fats but a high carbohydrate sensitivity. An increased response to refined carbs might explain an inability to lose weight as easily as some, and can have a negative effect on blood glucose levels. There are also indicators of a raised sensitivity to alcohol which implies a slower metabolisation of alcohol, and to caffeine. Too much caffeine can be detrimental to bone health as it can inhibit the absorption of vitamins and minerals.What the testing can’t tell you is that although it suggests, from my DNA make up that I need to eat more cruciferous, it won’t know if I eat it all day, every day therefore am maxed-out on broccoli. The same for the other results. My pre-disposition in regards to caffeine is clear but I may not drink it anyway. Because your DNA doesn’t change such details can’t be reflected in the results.

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So what do you actually learn from the test? It is important to note that DNA we are born with is not the sole determinant for our health and wellbeing so it follows then that whilst DNA may give us a pre-determination for something, we are able to have a positive effect on our wellbeing through lifestyle choices. Armed with this knowledge then a DNA test does clarify certain aspects of one’s make up which is empowering and yes I will try and drink less coffee – I know I should but I guess it’s good to see why. Yes I will increase my antioxidant intake (most of us should) and yes I do think I learnt a little (enough to justify the expense) if not a whole lot.

DNAFit Diet & Fitness, £249

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