A Look into the Future of Nutritional Science
It’s a known fact that different medications affect different people in different ways, but what about food?
That’s where Nutrigenomics comes in.
Typically, we look at any old food label and assume that the nutrition facts apply to us. But if not all bodies are created equal, then not all foods will affect them the same way.
That’s the thought behind Nutrigenomics, the scientific study of the relationship between genes and nutrition. This rapidly expanding field of research is the foundation of personalized nutrition, which merges genetics, microbiome (gut bacteria), hormone levels, environmental exposure, body type, and health history to provide individualized dietary advice.
In November 2015, personalized nutrition made the news when researchers at the Weizmann Institute of Science in Israel wrote an algorithm based on their study, which continuously monitored the blood sugar of more than 800 adults. Their algorithm was able to accurately predict the effect of specific foods on a specific person, thereby successfully guiding a nutrition plan that reduced blood sugar levels. The algorithm not only accounted for typical individual variation such as age, gender, and body mass index, but also included less obvious particulars, like gut microbes. The researchers went on to test their algorithm on 100 pre-diabetic patients, and the prescribed diets decreased post-meal blood sugar levels and increased levels of desirable gut bacteria.
Perhaps this “whole person” approach can explain the wide range of weight loss results from the same diet program. In a study comparing weight loss outcomes with The Zone, Atkins, Ornish and Weight Watchers programs, some participants lost 35 pounds or more, while others actually gained weight with each diet. Additionally, not everyone completed their respective diets in the study. It’s possible that any individual participant’s ability to adhere to a specific dietary plan is influenced by their DNA and microbiome.
As the field grows in popularity, so is its accessibility, making these nutrigenomics testing plans easily available to anyone. Home DNA nutrition testing services have begun to dominate the marketplace as they are more affordable than a one-on-one personalized service. These services work by mailing you a home kit. You then provide them a saliva sample, mail it back to them, and in 6 to 8 weeks they provide you with detailed nutrigenomics information. Most of the companies provide exercise recommendations and customized nutrition plans, and some do offer you personalized consultations with specialists. Each service has its own focus and offerings. Here is a look at some of the different companies that specialize in nutrigenomics testing services for personalized health:
DNAFit is one of the services aimed at those who want to lose weight or take their fitness to the next level. DNAFit offers information on 40 different genes that they’ve selected based on their reviews of scientific research. When they find valid studies from reputable researchers that show genes linked to fitness and exercise, they present them to their advisory board for review. They only report on a gene once there is clear evidence regarding an easily modifiable gene environment interaction with a positive outcome and if the effect is shown across multiple studies. DNAFit focuses offers packages tailored specifically toward athletes. DNAFit has three areas they say their products can help with: athletes and sports; fitness and diet; and overall wellbeing.
The Diet & Meal Planner (retail $199) gives you in-depth analysis of your personal genetic nutrition response and 12 weeks of access to DNAFit’s personalized meal planner. Also offered at $199, are two kits aimed at specific fitness goals: fat loss and muscle building. With these, you get detailed information about your genetic response to exercise plus 12 weeks of personalized exercise plans, tailored to either goal. Their final package at $299 is the Fitness Diet Pro, which provides you with full nutrigenomics diet testing and analysis on everything from macronutrient response to general wellness.
ORIG3N’s mission statement is to empower everyone to take care of their health by providing affordable DNA testing to give people greater insights into their genetics. They also aim to aid the growth of regenerative medicine. Regenerative medicine is where new cells are generated to help heal and repair damaged organs and tissues. ORIG3N hosts events around the country where people can learn more about them and donate blood for their research. They now have the largest cell bank in the world.
ORIG3N has a host of products tailored to different aspects customers may want to learn about and varying price levels. Their fitness testing kit costs $150 as does their DNA nutrition testing kit. They also have more niche nutrigenomics testing such as metabolism (insights into how your genetic makeup impacts how you metabolize food), vitamins (insights into any vitamin deficiencies) and hunger & weight, which all retail for $49. The larger packages often encompass these tests, but if you want to learn about one specific area, you can do so at a more affordable price.
Vitagene is one of the more popular nutrigenomics companies for wellness. Vitagene claims to use only the latest nutrition and genetics research for the results they provide. They only used certified labs for review of all swab samples, and their staff consists entirely of medical professionals and scientists.Their goal is to help you to more easily have a healthy lifestyle by taking some of the mystery out of what will work best for you.
Vitagene offers a single product for users new to genetic testing. For $99, you get a comprehensive diet report, detailed fitness plan and personalized supplement recommendations. You also get an ancestry breakdown that will tell you more about the breakdowns of your global ancestry. The diet report provides insights into what you should be eating along with customized food list recommendations. It also gives you information on gluten sensitivity, emotional eating, weight regain after dieting, and more. The fitness report comes with a personalized workout plan as well as information on exercise behavior, power vs. endurance exercise, muscle strength and beyond.
Simplified Genetics is another fitness focused service. Their goal is to help people to work out smarter, not harder and to aid users in what types of exercise, foods and supplements are best for their specific genetic makeup. Simplified Genetics is the only full sequence analysis provider for consumers in the US. Sequence analysis is the process of subjecting a DNA sequence to any of a wide range of analytic methods to understand its features, function and structure. A full sequence means that they are not just looking at parts of your DNA, but analyzing all of the genes. They do the full sequence to provide better results to their customers.
Simplified Genetics offers two different kits. The Simply Fit Essentials Kit, retailing at $299, gives you the basic information on the right exercise for you, determines target heart rates for exercise, identifies carb sensitivities, and provides basic macronutrient breakdown, supplement support and a sample weekly meal plan. Their other option, Simply Fit Optimal Kit at$399, takes the analyses to the next level by providing you with more in-depth information on macronutrient breakdown, specific percentages for the right genetic exercise, and more robust supplement recommendations. It also provides you with a comprehensive genetic panel and a free 20 minute consultation
EmbodyDNA is a nutrigenomics diet testing company specifically focused on helping users lose weight through increased genetic knowledge. A unique feature of EmbodyDNA is that, while you are waiting for your sample to be analyzed, you can download their app. The app allows you to track your meals. Once your sample has been analyzed, you will get a report in the app telling you how well your body handles the foods you’re eating, specifically referencing your logged foods.
EmobdyDNA will also provide you with information on genetic predispositions, how exercise influences your weight loss, and what that means for your overall wellness. The app monitors your eating trends and gives you feedback on your behaviors. It also provides a recommended list of foods and beverages. The company includes the scientific information at each step, so you are better able to understand the science behind their analysis. Their kit retails for $189, and, unfortunately, the app is only for iOS users.
There are many other companies offering similar nutrigenomics diet testing, but these are some of the more popular services available. Before you select, ask yourself these questions:. What do Ireally want to learn? What kind of help do I hope to get from the service Iselect? How much do I really want to spend? Knowing your end goals in advance will help you to choose the right product for you so you can get a science-backed boost toward achieving your fitness, weight loss or wellness goals.
Not ready to take the plunge into genetic testing? In the meantime, you can incorporate universally effective weight loss strategies into your routine:
Reduce portion sizes.
Much of the personalized nutrition research has focused on lowering blood sugar levels, which are associated with myriad health issues. Until there’s data to substantiate personalized weight loss programs, eating smaller portions, thereby reducing excess calories, remains a prudent step. Most of us have a tendency to eat food in front of us, even if we’re not hungry for it. Plus, we are likely to continue eating before our brains catch up to our stomachs, which is why so many of us eat to the point of feeling stuffed. By putting less on your plate, you avoid accidental overeating.
It may take time to determine the right portion size for your stomach. But start small, and wait 15-20 minutes to see if you feel full. If you don’t, you can always go back for seconds.
Consume fewer processed foods.
Sure, cereal for breakfast may be convenient, but it comes at a price. Processed foods are typically loaded with sugar, corn syrup and artificial ingredients and are low in nutrients—a combination that effectively delivers “empty calories” (calories that have no benefits for your health and body). Additionally, a growing body of evidence indicates that reducing the processed foods in your diet can help improve the composition of your gut microbes, which may also influence your weight. There are many healthy snacks that are non-processed, easy to make, low in calorie and delicious that you can replace for convenience foods.
Increase fiber intake.
Fiber slows down the rate at which food leaves your stomach, helping you feel fuller, longer. The distention of your stomach triggers some of the first hormonal signals to the brain to decrease hunger and transition to a feeling of fullness. Start your meals with fiber-rich vegetables to initiate this process with surprisingly few calories.
I mean water, of course. By drinking a glass of water before meals, you’ll not only stay hydrated, but you’ll also be sure that those hunger pangs you’re feeling aren’t thirst pangs. Plus, water can help fill your stomach, subsequently reducing your appetite. In fact, a recent study demonstrated that drinking approximately 17 oz. of water 30 minutes before each meal resulted in greater weight loss when compared to non-water drinkers.
No matter what you learn from your nutrigenomics test, MealEnders can support your personalized weight management plan. As a behavioral tool, MealEnders adapt well to just about any eating challenge and behavioral change you strive to make based on your test results. For example, if you’ve learned that you don’t metabolize carbs efficiently, MealEnders can help curb your cravings for those tempting sugary and starchy treats. And, of course, MealEnders can help you to stop eating once you’ve reached the right portion size for your body. While there are many tried and true ways to manage your weight, personalized nutrition can give you that extra edge in understanding what foods and exercise are right for you, and MealEnders can help you stick to your new eating goals.