I took a DNA test that recommends diet and health tips based on your genes — and was shocked by the results
April 25, 2018
By Kristine Solomon
1. I shouldn't rely on multivitamins
According to Dr. Julie Chen, an integrative medicine physician on Vitagene’s advisory board, I should get all of my essential nutrients from the foods I eat. In other words, my diet should be my multivitamin. I should only take supplements to address my deficiencies (hence the word “supplements”). Excess vitamins can potentially be harmful — and the New York Times agrees.
My personal list of supplements is pretty short — and surprisingly bizarre. In addition to the usual suspects, like vitamin D and probiotics, Vitagene suggests I stock up on obscurities like chromium, glucosamine chondroitin complex, and — brace yourself — bromelain quercetin complex. Apparently, these pills will help regulate my blood sugar and protect me from joint pain and inflammation, respectively.
But do I need them? I'll let my (actual) doctor decide.
2. I may be predisposed to overindulging in food
The cat’s out of the bag. I only exercise because I have to, and I keep my cupboards pretty bare because I have no self-control. The craziest part? I’m allegedly genetically predisposed to be this way!
In addition to my DNA being ravenous and sedentary, it is also stubborn about weight loss and muscle gain. Small portions that total 1,400 calories a day and extra reps at the gym are the only way my body weight will budge, thanks to my genes.
3. I should drop the yoga mat and pick up a barbell
Namaste? Not if I want to tone up, says Vitagene. I’m built to see more results from short, intense exercises, like sprinting and bench pressing, than from aerobic workouts like jogging, swimming, and yoga, which I love.
That said, I still need aerobic exercise to keep my heart healthy; I just have to work a lot harder. In short, I’m built to be the tortoise, not the hare.
4. I'll probably never have six-pack abs—and that's OK
Along with my body’s reluctance to lose weight, I’m also blessed with muscles that are less responsive to strength training than most. The ability to develop muscle is highly influenced by genetics — up to 85%, according to Vitagene. It would take a Herculean effort for me to develop abs or biceps, Dr. Chen suggests, but it can be done.
I can honestly say that even at my most fit, I’ve never had a six-pack. Not even a four-pack. The best I’ve had is a perfectly flat and strong tummy — and that’s more than good enough for me.
5. I'm sensitive to caffeine — except I'm not
When Dr. Chen told me I metabolize caffeine more slowly than most people, my eyes almost bugged out of my head — and not because I’d just polished off my third cup of coffee.
I routinely drink about three cups a day, often having my last brew after dinner. I have no problem sleeping at night, and I never feel jittery. So how can I be sensitive to caffeine?
That leads me to the most shocking finding of all …
6. I can train my body to work against my genetic inclinations
We’re all predisposed to unsavory stuff — and good things, too (I can eat fat and gluten, and my triglycerides, blood pressure, and cholesterol should be fine)!
But we also have the power to counteract our genetic tendencies with behavior. “Overall disease risk is a combination of genetic and lifestyle risk,” says Dr. Chen. “So even if your genetic risk is high, managing your lifestyle risks can help keep your overall risk down.”
In other words, if I really want to be a marathoner, I can. I just have to keep running — harder and more often. If I don’t want to inherit osteoporosis (and I don’t!), I can decrease my chances by being diligent about supplements and strength training. Eventually I’ll train my body to keep up, just like I’ve trained my system to think caffeine is no big deal.
In the nature versus nurture debate, the results seem conclusive: It’s a little bit of both.