Purple Blue DNA on Canvas

Is the World Ready for Nutrigenetics?

Apparently, consumers are hungry for nutrigenetics. That’s the science that explains how our genes affect our nutrition status. And that subject takes people very quickly to the subject of body weight. So a whole host of companies are offering to analyze your DNA and give you personal insights for managing your weight and your health.

But this science is new and changing fast. Can consumers really make sense of it?

Enthusiastic Reviews

Habit, for instance, will sell you a $300 home nutrition test kit. Undaunted by the cost, Markham Heid took the test and proclaimed the results impressive in Men’s Health:

As a guy who writes a lot about nutrition and the latest health research, I appreciated that my Habit results didn’t appear to overreach or become too rigid. For instance, I was given nine “hero foods”—things like kidney beans or wild salmon, each of which provides my body with multiple nutrients it needs to thrive—but I wasn’t being pushed toward some whacko, ultra-restrictive eating plan. This looked like the kind of diet experts have recommended to me again and again—that is, a whole foods based diet—but with some weighting and tweaks designed to match my body’s needs.

Pairing Nutrigenetics with Nutrisystem

Yesterday, the folks at Nutrisystem announced that they were taking things a step further with their DNA Body Blueprint product. They developed this testing service in alliance with Genetic Direction and AKESOgen. Since our founder, Ted Kyle, serves on Nutrisystem’s Science Advisory Board, we saw this one coming.

The Blueprint is a personalized report based on more than 30 genes, considerable research, and a proprietary algorithm. The report describes how your genetic profile might affect metabolism, body weight, eating behaviors, food digestion, vitamins, and minerals.

Then they translate that into an action plan and help customers develop a tailored dietary program for weight management.

Personal Insight

Without a doubt, the amount of data from these testing services can be overwhelming. And none of it, frankly, can offer magic answers for health or weight loss. But what it does seem to offer people is a tool for understanding some of the quirks of their own bodies.

It’s a practical expression of something scientists know, but the public has been slow to grasp about obesity and health. Our genes set the table. Our community provides the food and the physical environment. And then we have to figure out what we do with it.

In other words, obesity is highly heritable. Our environment plays a big role. But we still have many options for finding our best health.

Click here for the science behind the Nutrisystem Body Blueprint, here for a fact sheet, and here for the company’s press release. For the review of the Habit testing kit, click here.

Purple Blue DNA on Canvas, image © DNA Art Gallery LLC / flickr

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July 17, 2018