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You know those people who tell you their genes are the reason they are overweight/out of shape/love to gorge on carbs? You can now call bullshit on those people thanks to the lovely folks at Absolute DNA, who have brought DNAFit genotype testing kits to our fair city. It’s really hard to argue with DNA.
DNAFit is a UK-based outfit that specializes in doing things right. They test 45 genes (out of over 20, 000)- and not just any old genes. They only test genes that have been properly validated: peer-reviewed by the scientific/medical community and exhibit statistically significant results. They don’t mess around with genes that are related to diseases either, because they don’t believe in playing God. Their focus is helping you achieve your genetic potential in the realms of fitness and nutrition.
To get started, all you need to do is provide them with a cheek swab at their office on Hollywood Road. That’s your part done. They then send it for testing to DNAFit’s specialist UK testing laboratory. Around three weeks later, you receive comprehensive nutrigenetics and sports genetics reports, as well as this colorful infographic (pictured) that displays your personal genotype’s* response to the 45 genes handily interpreted into 17 easy-to-understand dietary and fitness data points.
The prospect of DNA testing was slightly disconcerting, but as a die-hard data geek, getting a DNA test related to my athletic capabilities and my eating health sounded hugely appealing. I want to arm myself with the best information so I can be as efficient as possible when it comes to what I eat and how I train. What’s the point of running four times a week if my body is designed to pump iron?
After my debrief session with Alex, the incredible knowledgeable and experienced founder of Absolute DNA, here’s what I learned about my nutrigenetic profile:
- My genotype displays a medium sensitivity to carbohydrates. That means my body utilizes carbs fairly well and converts them to energy somewhat efficiently. Alex suggested I consume starchy carbs within an hour and a half of working out, so my body could use them for refueling.
- I tested as lactose-intolerant, meaning my genotype suggests an inability to digest dairy products due to a missing lactase enzyme.
- I have a high predisposition to coeliac disease, which means my body has an adverse reaction to consuming gluten. This came as a surprise!
- I have a normal sensitivity to alcohol consumption, which sounds like it would be a good thing but actually in this case, it’s those who have raised sensitivity that fare best: their bodies metabolize alcohol in such a way as to boost good cholesterol levels. Not much of a lush, so not much of an impact on my life here!
- My need for antioxidants is raised: I need to ensure I get more than the recommended daily amounts (DNAFit uses the EU’s RDA levels) of vitamin A, vitamin E, vitamin C and selenium in my diet and/or through supplementation.
- On the caffeine front, I came out as intermediately sensitive: Alex suggested I keep my consumption to less than 200mg a day (about 2 cups of coffee). Sad times…I definitely am overdoing it currently.
- On the detoxification front, I’m fast and that’s not a good thing! It means that I easily accumulate toxic HCAs and PHAs in my liver (the crispy bits that form on char-grilled and smoked meats), which can lead to free radical damage. My body doesn’t produce enough of the enzymes required to break down these toxins. This is why I tested high for cruciferous vegetable need (cabbage, kale, brussels sprouts, etc). I guess I will have to cool it on the weekend BBQing.
- My genotype also suggests an increased need for B vitamins, omega-3 fatty acids, and vitamin D. This was expected and I already supplement for all of these.
- Salt-wise, I came out raised: there’s an elevated risk of sodium-related hypertension/high blood pressure for my genoytpe. Easy to correct for: just need to avoid processed foods that are so very high in sodium. Luckily, most of my meals are homemade.
- I have a medium sensitivity to saturated fat, so I should make sure to include those in my diet in moderation.
On the sports genetics side of things, I found out that:
- My genotype favors power training with a focus on strength and speed, rather than endurance. Great news for me since I love lifting weights and really don’t enjoy long-distance running much!
- My body recovers from training at a medium speed, which basically means I need to give myself 48 hours between sessions. Pushing myself to work out hard every single day of the week is actually not advisable for my particular genotype. Score!
- I am a medium for risk of injury. In this case, the test is referring to overuse tendon injuries related to collagen genes. When you workout very frequently, repetitive strain can occur. For someone like me, who does not live at the gym, this is not something to worry about. But for committed athletes, injury risk is a vital data point to consider when planning their training regimes.
- DNAFit tested my VO2 max response, an expression of your body’s ability to utilize oxygen in the muscles, which in turn drives energy production. I have a medium response, which Alex explained means that I lose my fitness and regain my fitness at the same rate. So let’s say I train regularly for a six months, and then I take a break for two months, that means it will take two months for me to get back to the same level of fitness. People who have a high response are genetically blessed: they would recover within days!
Alex was careful to state that genes are only 50% of the health equation: the rest is environment. DNAFit highlighted the information that is coded in my genotype, but there is no guarantee that it will be expressed. Unlike a set of blood tests, that depicts what is going in my body right now, DNAFit offers up my genetic potential. My habits and other environmental factors can influence whether the genes are expressed.
Here’s what I am taking away: I can train stronger and harder but need to give myself more rest days in between. My optimal diet type is Mediterranean, which from a macro point of view means around 20% protein, 30% fats, 30% fiber carbs and 20% starchy carbs. I will continue to monitor my saturated fat and high GI carb consumption and watch my salt and caffeine intake. I will keep gorging on leafy greens and oily fish. I will remain strict about restricting dairy products, though I will still enjoy goat cheese as a once in a while treat. The biggest surprise was the coeliac predisposition: I am considering getting the (fairly invasive) coeliac test. I worry it may explain a host of health issues I have been dealing with for the past few years.
Absolute DNA Hong Kong is the exclusive distributor of DNAFit testing kit. The DNAFit test, results pack (including diet and fitness reports, as well as meal plans) and one hour consultation to go through the results costs HKD 5, 000. Mention Green Queen and save 5%! To book your session and get more information, email Ben Axten-Burrett at firstname.lastname@example.org and visit Absolute DNA’s website.
October 2017 Update: Get a DNAFit test and your report for HKD 3,500 or upgrade to the consultation package- normally HKD 6,000 but currently only HKD 4,200 for Green Queen readers, use code ‘GQ2017.’
* Definition of genotype: “The genotype is the part (DNA sequence) of the genetic makeup of a cell, and therefore of an organism or individual, which determines a specific characteristic (phenotype) of that cell/organism/individual.” Wikipedia
Lead image courtesy of Absolute DNA Hong Kong, with permission from Green Queen.