While most people have heard of 23andMe, the direct-to-consumer genetic testing company that’s provided well over one million users with personalized information about their ancestry and genes linked to cystic fibrosis and other diseases, there’s today a more niche group of DNA tests designed to offer users genetic findings related to their health and fitness.
Companies in this growing field include FitnessGenes, DNAFit and Nutrigenomix, which gather information on genes related to endurance, muscle mass, fat burning ability and metabolism, among other unique traits. These companies then offer personalized diet and training plans based on the results.
The service, which cost several hundred dollars, can help people make more meaningful lifestyle changes to help them get stronger and healthier. It is said genetic testing is able to tell you more about the way you’re built, so that you can tailor your lifestyle to fit your biology.
“There is so much information out there about how to lose weight or get fit,” says Dan Reardon, the CEO and co-founder of Fitness Genes. To actually get the results you want, he continues, “You have to be able to know what will work for you.”
Each of us inherits genetic material from our parents, a unique chemical blueprint called DNA. This DNA makes up our more than 20,000 genes, which each carry instructions for a single protein that together determine how we look and how our bodies function. All of our genes are gathered into 23 chromosome pairs, found in almost every cell in our bodies.
Genetic tests typically look at specific chromosomes, genes or proteins, and changes or mutations that occur within them, to make determinations about disease or disease risk, body processes or physical traits. Direct-to-consumer tests, which are conducted outside of the medical setting, use cells found in the saliva to reach these results.
DNA is short for Deoxyribonucleic acid, a molecule found in the body that carries the genetic instructions that govern growth, functioning and reproduction in all living organisms. We have it, animals have it, plants have it and even viruses have it. It’s found in every cell in the body, and to grossly simplify things, DNA stores the biological information that governs who we are.
The DNA test offered by UK-based DNAFit tests 45 genes that have been scientifically verified to have an impact on fitness and diet. It’s far from a complete picture — there are around 20,000 genes in the average person, and how you live your life has a huge effect on your overall health.
If you eat badly, take little exercise, drink to excess and generally don’t look after yourself, then no amount of “good genes” will prevent ill health. But for those interested in improving their health, it seems that taking a look at your genes can be illuminating.
Healthy-e reporting with sources: 23andMe; Huff Post