“If you could, would you want to know when you’re going to die?”
At some point in time, you have probably been asked that question by one of your somewhat more morbid friends…
When I asked that question to a group class the other day, only one of 16 people said they would want to know the answer.
If most people don’t really want to know their ultimate destiny, it’s interesting that we have become more and more interested in genetic testing. Or is there a big difference between knowing, for example, that you have a 75% chance of getting breast cancer and knowing how and when you’re going to die?
Regardless, we’re increasingly interested in our DNA and what it means for the way we should allegedly live our lives. In 2003, the National Human Genome Research Institute (NHGRI) completed the Human Genome Project, giving us a map of ourselves—a code for human beings on earth. And in 2007, commercial genetic testing services became available to the public, so now anyone could pay to get their genome analyzed.
Today, DNA testing has become increasingly more accessible and affordable. The result: To escape their supposedly doomed fates, women like Angelina Jolie have taken extreme measures like double mastectomies.
Another popular trend is to pay anywhere from one hundred dollars to thousands of dollars—depending on the scope of the test—to have your genes analyzed by one of many companies that exist today—companies such as FitnessGenes, DNAFit and Nutrigenomix.
Once they analyze your DNA, you’re given a prescription that tells you exactly how you should be eating, as well as working out best practices for your specific genes—ultimately a template that tells you your best path to becoming healthier, leaner, fitter, stronger, faster. (This is determined by looking at whether you have specific genes believed to affect things like muscle mass, endurance, fat burning ability and metabolism, among other things).
My question to you is this: Is there value in DNA testing YET? Or are these companies just taking advantage of a gullible population who desperately wants to lose weight by using a ‘Sell Now, Build Later’ approach?
I’m suspicious that we just aren’t there yet….
Do I think genetics plays a role in metabolism? Yes. Common sense tells me it plays a huge role, but am I suspicious whether current testing is providing useful advice. I would argue we’re currently no better at DNA analysis than meteorologists are at predicting the weather!
“90% chance of rain,” said the forecast, as you stare up at a blue sky.
This very informative article from Precision Nutrition goes into great detail and concludes that we certainly don’t have all the answers yet.
Other experts agree: Don’t waste your money on DNA testing, they say!
Claude Bouchard, PhD, director of the human genomics laboratory at Pennington Biomedical Research Center said this: “When it comes to these current genetic tests for fitness and performance, they have almost zero predictive power.”
This is because they might tell you, for example, that you’re susceptible to obesity because you have the FTO gene, but in reality this gene is only one of more than 100 genes associated with obesity and basically only accounts for 3 or 4 percent of obesity risk. In other words, a lot of this testing only shows a piece of the puzzle and often takes things out of context.
Similarly, RD Jen Broxterman of Nutrition Rx has worked with many clients who have spent unnecessary money to get their DNA analyzed.
“For the most part, genetic testing is a waste of money for nutritional changes. Poor return on investment,” she said.
“The advice is usually to follow a nutrient-dense, whole foods diet, often encouraging a wide variety of common sense health behaviours, such as eating lots of vegetables, eating more dietary fiber, exercising regularly, avoiding caffeine, alcohol, tobacco in excess, and other health behaviours that you should already be doing even without knowing your genetic test results.”
Maybe our in-house naturopath Dr. Alana Shaw has an opinion on the matter??
What do you think? Have you had any DNA testing done? Did you find it useful? Why or why not?