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Eat according to your genes

I recently signed up for an introduction in Nutrigenomics for dietitians at the Monash University. Nutrigenomics is the science of the interaction of nutrition and genes, especially with regard to the prevention or treatment of disease. DNA analysis is now becoming increasingly available and affordable for the wider public and research in this field increases exponentially. So, I felt it was time for me to learn more about it.

I was keen to getting my DNA analysed to apply what I have learned on a practical sample, so I sent my DNA to two different labs. Both labs focused on different data:

Lab 1: Risk for genetic diseases and drug response

Examples of genetic risk factors tested:

  • Familial Hypercholesterolemia (increased cholesterol)

  • Hereditary Breast or Ovarian Cancer Syndrome

  • Alzheimer's Disease

  • Parkinson's Disease

  • Sickle Cell Anemia

The variants tested for are typically the most common ones linked to the condition. However, the absence of specific variants does not rule out the possibility to carry another variant linked to the condition. It may be comforting to know that the risk of developing certain serious diseases is not elevated. However, having an elevated risk for a serious disease where there is no cure nor much evidence on how it can be prevented, might result in worries and helplessness. Please think about this prior to undertaking the analysis and get help from a genetic counsellor.

Lab 2: Information on metabolism of certain nutrients and its effect on health

This lab told me about how I metabolise certain vitamins and the effect of nutrients on health. E.g. it told me that:

  • I am less efficient in convert beta-carotene into vitamin A

  • I need to pay particular attention into getting enough vitamin C, D, Folate, Calcium

  • I have an increased risk of hypertension if my salt intake is high

  • The effects of certain nutrients on weight loss: e.g. in my case I need to keep saturated fat low but am ok with normal amounts of fat, protein, physical activity etc.

  • I am slightly sensitive to lactose but fine with gluten

  • I have the tendency to eat between meals (YES, I know)

  • I have the genetic advantage to excel in strength and power-based activities (too bad, I dislike power sports)

Although these results are just indications to my metabolism, it guides me where to focus my attention to.

If you are tempted like me to get your genes tested, make sure you use an accredited and reliable lab and check what they are testing for to be sure what to expect. After receiving your results, make sure you discuss them with the appropriate health care professional (experienced in genetics).

Evelyn Dorkel







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