It’s undeniable that good health is the foundation for optimal performance. Nutrients absorbed from the food you eat are what fuel your body’s processes. Your body can’t function without them, making the interdependency with nutrition inherent. Food affects everyone differently, and genetics is a big reason why.
If you are predisposed to low levels of certain nutrients and you don’t know it, your health and performance will likely suffer. Thankfully with modern technology, we can take a “look” inside and see where you might need some nutritional backup.
What is a nutritional genetic test?
Nutritional genetic tests reveal how nutrients and genes interact. The human genome consists of about 3 billion base pairs. Only about 0.1% of these base pairs differ between people. The most common type of genetic variation is called a single nucleotide polymorphism (SNP), which is a variation of a single base pair in the DNA sequence. Everyone has ~4-5 million SNPs, most of which occur outside of genes but when SNPs occur within a gene, or in a regulatory area near a gene, they may affect the gene’s function.
Whoa, that’s a lot of science, let’s simplify that to English…
Think of DNA as a necklace. If you change the order of beads in the necklace it changes how the necklace looks. Similarly, if you change the base pairs (i.e. beads) you change how the gene (i.e. necklace) functions.
Which Genetic Tests Are Worth it?
You can find genetic tests that try to tell you the kind of diet that is best for you, high fat, high carb, etc. but there’s no scientific evidence to support those (yet). I do believe someday we will be able to make dietary recommendations based on genetics, but we aren’t there now. In one study, the genetically matched diet led to no more improvements than the genetically mismatched diet. Therefore I don’t recommend getting tests that try to give you macronutrient (protein, fat, carb) split recommendations based on our genes. What is worthwhile now is looking at micronutrient affinities. These tests can tell us if you are predisposed to have high or low levels of a vitamin or mineral.
I strongly recommend getting a blood test with your genetic test. The genetic test tells you your nutrient predisposition (i.e. more likely to be high/low in something) but the blood test reveals what your actual nutrient levels are. Both pieces of the puzzle are important. Dr. Garret Rock, founder of Athlete Blood Test explains, “We have data showing misaligned results between blood and genetics…which is really important to identify because it gives tremendous insight into environmental influence vs genetic predisposition.” At Athlete Blood Test we offer a combined genetic and blood test known as the platinum panel.
How do I get tested?
Good news, no needles! Genetic testing is very simple, you just swab the inside of your cheek, no need to leave your home, so it’s quarantine approved 😉 Your DNA is analyzed in a lab and the report is emailed to you.
What does the test tell me?
The test tells you your genotype, which suggests there is a greater or lesser chance that you may exhibit certain traits or responses. For example, your genetic profile for BCM01 may indicate your response to convert beta-carotene to vitamin A may be reduced. The report has success strategies for every gene analyzed so you can take action with each vitamin/mineral predisposition assessed. See below.
What are the benefits of testing?
Once you know your genetic results, you (or a Registered Dietitian) can tailor your diet to focus on foods that help you achieve optimal nutrient levels for your best health and performance. I frequently help athletes find the right nutrients and lifestyle changes that fit their preferences and goals based on genetic and blood tests. It may be necessary to supplement your diet with the correct nutrition based on the results, but we always take a food first approach whenever possible and only after seeing blood levels.
Another nice thing is that you only need to get tested once. Unlike blood tests that need to be done periodically to monitor dynamic nutrient levels, the genes analyzed are your genes for life.
There are very few tests worthwhile, but blood and micronutrient genetic tests are definitely worth every penny. There’s no way you can be your best if you’re not fueling correctly and these tests give you a piece of the blueprint of your fueling plan.
About Dr. A’nna
Dr. A’nna strives to inspire people to optimally fuel their body to achieve their best and have a positive impact on the world. She is the only combined Ph.D./RD specializing in sports performance nutrition in the world with all Ivy League degrees and the Chief Research Officer at AthleteBloodTest.
Dr. A’nna aims to cultivate a world of healthy athletes who understand nutrition and know how to leverage their physiology to get the best results in sports and life. You can reach her at [email protected] or on Instagram @drannaroby.