Do DNA Tests Actually Work?
In short, yes, DNA diets can work.
The reason the answer is ‘can work’ rather than ‘do work’ is because your genes are only one part of the puzzle of your health. Lifestyle and environment factors also play a big role in how you react to the food you eat.
But the science of nutrigenomics has proven that your version of a gene can make you respond to a food (or the components of that food) in a different way to your neighbor, or even your sibling.
Examples are the lactose in milk, the gluten in bread, or the caffeine in coffee. Your genes also have a say in how you process the carbohydrates, fats, proteins vitamins and minerals found in various foods.
But can your DNA tell you what diet is best for you? Read on to find out.
Here’s the TL;DR…
- DNA diets work, but your environment and lifestyle has a huge impact on preventing and curing disease too
- Diets based on DNA have helped people lose 18 lbs more than people on a non-DNA keto diet.
- Articles in the media that downplay DNA diets are based on studies that only analyzed a few genes, not the hundreds we and other companies look at.
What is a DNA diet?
A DNA diet uses nutrigenomics to create an eating plan that is right for you, based on your DNA.
Nutrigenomics is the study of how your diet impacts your genes (and vice versa: your genes can also impact your diet, for example by influencing your appetite).
So how does your DNA affect your ideal diet?
Well, for instance, there are many genes that influence how you metabolize caffeine. One of them increases your risk of high blood pressure if you go wild on the espressos.
We’ve also found multiple genes that affect how you lose weight: your DNA can tell us a lot about your likelihood of getting trim on a protein-rich diet as opposed to one heavier on carbohydrates.
It’s important to say here that DNA testing for diet won’t give you a perfect body or tip-top health on it’s own.
As we mentioned before, lifestyle and environment have a huge effect on your body and mind too.
You could follow the perfect diet for you, but if you’re super-stressed, get no exercise, and stay up till 3am every night, you won’t reap the benefits.
Other factors, like your gut health and toxin intake are crucial too.
DNA and diet: does a diet based on your DNA really work?
There is no one DNA diet, so let’s unpack the answer to that question.
A few articles in the scientific press claim that DNA-based diets have no credibility, but the studies they cite usually look at one to three genes.
According to the Human Genome Project, the human genome has between 20,000 to 25,000 genes. Also, the science of nutrigenomics is progressing every day.
The biggest problem with the articles that look down DNA diets is that they don’t explain the difference between basing a diet on a single gene and using a complex algorithm which factors in hundreds of genes.
However, single genes can still have a big impact.
For example, one Harvard study found that people with a specific FTO gene variation lost a lot more weight on a higher-protein diet.
These types of studies are vital in helping us overcome the current one-size fits all diets that don’t look at us as individuals.
So the answer is yes, a diet plan based on DNA can certainly work, especially if it looks at a significant range of your genes instead of just a couple.
What does a DNA diet plan look like?
What a diet plan based on DNA looks like depends on who (or what, in the case of algorithms) created it.
A good DNA diet plan will not only tell you what you should and shouldn’t be eating, but why, and give you actionable advice on how to optimize your diet based on your genes.
Not all types of DNA diets do this.
For instance, if your caffeine sensitivity genes show that overall, you’re moderately sensitive to caffeine, a good DNA diet plan will tell you exactly how much is safe to consume: maybe two to four cups a day.
It will also give you a breakdown of all the genes that the algorithm has analysed to come to that conclusion. We currently know of five genes that affect how your body deals with caffeine.
Caffeine sensitivity is affected in two basic ways:
First, you may metabolize caffeine more slowly, which increases your sensitivity to its effects.
Second, caffeine may lower your bone density, depending on your genetic variations.
At LifeDNA, we combine these two factors to determine how much caffeine you can safely consume in a day.
A good DNA diet plan will also give you the references to the scientific studies that your advice is based on.
What are the best DNA diet tests?
From the results, you need to learn how to optimize your wellness and quality of life. While getting the results you want may take some effort, putting the advice into practice should be easy.
Your results should be crystal-clear, simple, specific and actionable.
Because knowing that you should consume less caffeine, for instance, isn’t giving you the information you need to change your behavior. You also need to know why you need to cut your coffee intake (what could happen if you don’t), and exactly how many lattes you can get away with.
You should also look for reports that present their information in a clear, compelling and attractive way. You’ll be seeing and digesting a lot of complex data: looks count for a lot here.
Advantages of LifeDNA
- The ever-evolving library of genetic reports continues to grow week-on-week, responding to the latest research on the human genome.
- Reports are plain, simple, and actionable. You’ll instantly know what kind of changes you need to make to the way you eat and live.
- A proprietary algorithm powered by machine learning is used to ensure each report is the most accurate on the market.
- LifeDNA also provides an exclusive membership with benefits including 1-on-1 consultations, unlimited updates, genomics newsletters, and Facebook community.
- Our platinum membership uses the latest discoveries in genetic science to give you up-to-the-minute information on how to eat according to your individual DNA.
Disadvantages of LifeDNA
- LifeDNA doesn’t provide ancestry information.
- We only ship initial testing kits to the US and Canada (but you can upload your genetic data from other providers).
- The company doesnt provide information on cancer risk.
Advantages of Genopalate
- Great for foodies
- Hundreds of recipes on their website
- PDF printout with all the information you need
- Own line of supplements
Disadvantages of Genopalate
- Simple genomic testing that doesn’t employ AI or machine learning
- Nutrition and food information only
- Supplements are expensive
- Customer service team is difficult to reach
Advantages of DNAfit
- You can get reports on both your health and fitness potential
- You can upload your 23andme raw data, for a fee
- A one-off coaching session comes with the price
- There is a money-back guarantee (subject to terms and conditions)
- There are no ongoing subscription fees as they don’t offer membership
Disadvantages of DNAfit
- You can’t upload your raw DNA data to use through other companies
- Sometimes the health recommendations are generic
- The cost of the premium CircleDNA report with ‘whole exome sequencing’ is high ($629)
- Some customers report long wait times
Advantages of VitaGene
- Non-DNA food sensitivity testing
- Ancestry and health information
- One-off payment with a lot of options to choose from
- Option to delete information
Disadvantages of VitaGene
- No AI or machine learning
- No subscription option
- History of data breach
- Results can take a long time to arrive
Are DNA diet tests accurate?
DNA diet tests are very accurate at revealing the specific genes that you carry. The science behind the cheek swab tests is trusted by experts worldwide. There’s no question that they’re both reliable and accurate.
However, if your question is really ‘will my DNA diet test make me lose weight/feel healthier’, the answer isn’t so simple.
That’s because your health and wellness depends on so much more than just your genes. While your genes are a crucial and undeniable part, there’s a massive environmental component too.
For instance, we know that the 100 trillion bacteria that make up your microbiome have a huge impact on your ability to tolerate gluten.
So, your genes might say you should be able to digest bread without a problem, but if your gut bugs say different, you could feel better staying away from sandwiches.
Are DNA diets the same as other weight loss diets?
No, DNA diets aren’t the same as other diets.
For a start, most DNA diets aren’t about losing weight: they’re about maximizing your health and longevity.
Sure, some genes affect how easy or hard it is for you to lose weight, but that’s usually not the focus of a DNA diet.
Most weight loss diets focus on depriving yourself and being hungry. DNA diets focus on making the most out of your own individual body and metabolism to make losing weight a healthier and more pleasant experience, if that’s what you want to do.
DNA diets do work: we have the science to prove it.
Saying DNA diets don’t work is like saying that we can’t predict the weather because sometimes meteorologists get it wrong.
We can’t base our conclusion about a whole area of science on one-off examples and small-scale studies.
DNA diets have the power to revolutionize your life, if you use them as one part of a toolkit that takes into account the rest of the factors that make and maintain health.
Your DNA isn’t your fate, but it can put you on a path to wellness and give you a map to help you get to the summit.