One of the hottest new trends in the health and skincare industry recently is DNA… more specifically personalised DNA tests known as Nutrigenomics (“Nutritional genetics”). The good news is that you can now do a DNA test in South Africa through optiphi.
No, we’re not talking about whether my dad is my dad or if I have a ticking time bomb genetic mutation that will shorten my life (although truth be told I did have at least one sleepless night worrying about this!)
The newest DNA trend is for those who are interested in improving their skin, health and diet to have personalised DNA tests to highlight their genetic weaknesses and to help them to make strategic lifestyle choices and changes to improve their health, skin and diet and ultimately live their best life.
What is DNA?
A few useful terms you need to know… a mini-biology lesson if you will!
Nucleus = The central element of each cell that contains chromosomes and DNA.
Gene = The basic physical and functional unit of heredity. Genes are made up of DNA and act as instructions to make molecules called proteins. In humans, genes vary in size from a few hundred DNA bases to more than 2 million bases.
DNA = Deoxyribonucleic acid, more commonly known as DNA, is a complex molecule that contains all of the information necessary to build and maintain an organism.
DNA Base Pair = A unit consisting of two nucleobases bound to each other by hydrogen bonds. They form the building blocks of the DNA double helix. Each gene is made up of 4 base pairs that appear in various formations and ultimately make you unique!
SNP = A slight change in the base pairs that make up your genes, and which can have a noticeable or neutral effect on your gene expression.
Why DNA matters?
So, what is the point of all this? Your genes are your genes – you can’t change what your mama (and dada) gave you, right!?
Well yes, that is true. You can’t change genetics. But it’s important to be aware that genetics are affected by your environment. What you do to, and put in, your body will impact how your genetic makeup plays out during the course of your life. You can even get tested online according to bestdnatest.net which is awesome!
Think of it in terms of a gun – your genetics load the gun, your lifestyle choices pull the trigger!
These DNA tests for health, diet and skin help to ascertain what are your “loaded” guns.
Knowledge is power. Knowing where your genetic predispositions or weaknesses are can help you to make the best lifestyle choices for YOUR body and eliminate or lessen your risks.
With this in mind I recently opted to have a DNA test offered through optiphi to find out what my “loaded” guns were when it comes to my skin, health and diet…
How to do a DNA Test in South Africa
DNA tests are used by a diverse range of trained medical practitioners to gain greater understanding into their patients’ requirements for optimal health and nutrition.
In South Africa DNAlysis provides personalised healthcare for patients using DNA tests to improve and maintain their health and wellness.
The comprehensive range of tests provides insight across the health spectrum, from weight management and chronic disease risk management, to understanding athletic performance and recovery requirements from high intensity exercise.
Knowledge is power. Nutrigenomic tests provide another level of very individualised information a health practitioner can use to optimise a person’s health and lifestyle. – Jessica Pieterse, Dietician
The Nutrigenomics genetic tests on offer through DNAlysis are done via the means of a cheek swap – I literally had to swirl a large ear bud type device around on the inside of my cheek for a few minutes and then pop it back into the sealed test tube to courier it off to the lab.
I signed up to do the DNA tests on offer through optiphi, including Skin, Health and Diet.
Read on below for some insights into my own DNA test and how it might help you…
My Skin DNA results
Striving to continually be on the forefront of innovative technology, optiphi has partnered with DNALYSIS Biotechnology to offer a comprehensive skincare treatment plan unique to their skin’s DNA.
Knowing one’s genetic predisposition to certain factors such as wrinkling or inflammation will determine how you treat your skin today. Your unique genes provide an intrinsic road map for your skin. Having access to this gives you the purposeful power to change the outcome by implementing personalized topical interventions. At optiphi® we promote a holistic approach to skin health looking at both intrinsic and extrinsic factors to design a personalized skin care regime for the individual. – Dr Samantha Baron, Geneticist
DNA is what makes you unique and what would be better than to base your skincare regime on your individual skin needs?
The optiphi® DNA Skin and DNA Skin Plus tests allow you to fully understand your skin and where it’s likely to be heading in the future, so you can plan for it. The results of the DNA Skin Test give you the knowledge and power to target these internal skin concerns, in combination to the external factors contributing to skin imperfections and aging, to greatly improve your skin’s future.
Additionally, the Skin Plus test offers you insights into your DNA diet and DNA health genetic profiles.
How does the DNA test work?
The process is easy:
- Your DNA sample is collected by means of a non-invasive cheek swab, using a cotton bud. No needles and no pain.
- Your DNA sample and completed consent form are delivered to the laboratory for gene variation analysis and your unique genetic skin, diet or health profile reports are compiled.
- The optiphi® team will send you and your skin professional or dermatologist your detailed DNA Skin report, as well as your personalized optiphi® product recommendation. The DNA Diet and DNA Health reports are sent to you via the health practitioner you selected on your consent form.
- Your skin professional or dermatologist will discuss the report results with you in detail to determine the best skincare regime and treatment plan to target your individual skin concerns, taking into account your internal skin priorities and external lifestyle factors. For DNA Diet and DNA Health Reports your selected healthcare practitioner will discuss your health & diet genetic profiles with you in detail and determine the most practical and effective strategy to improve your health and diet priorities. (This consultation is charged at the healthcare practitioner’s rates and is to the client’s onus. Selected medical aids and plans are prepared to pay for the health practitioner’s consultation, consult your medical scheme for more information.)
So what were the genetic risk factors specific to MY skin?
The DNA Skin test looks at various areas of concern when it comes to skin ageing such as Firmness and elasticity, Sun sensitivity and pigmentation, Sun damage, protection and repair, Protection from oxidative stress, Detoxification and skin sensitivity as well as Inflammation.
Turns out my biggest area of concern is Firmness and Elasticity.
For the first area of concern I need to look at adding collagen to my skincare regime. As we age we all start to loose collagen as production deteriorates with age. As I age I’ll loose more collagen than most and this will become apparent in a lack of tone to my skin! Eeeek.
This means I may have more skin sensitivity, pre-mature ageing and formation of lines and wrinkles, especially after sun exposure. It is important to make use of a good quality moisturiser, targeting matrix protein synthesis and visible skin firmness daily.
The best skin boosting ingredients for me to include in my skincare regime include retinoids & ceramides, vitamin C, peptides, and hyaluronic acid.
In addition to the product recommendations I also had a Skype conversation with a DNAlysis Dietician, Jessica Pieterse, who was able to guide me through some of my DNA feedback and give helpful suggestions unique to me. For this skin concern she recommended that I should look to taking a daily collagen supplement and increase my intake of food rich in iron, vitamin C & vitamin D.
My second area of concern is Sun Damage… and even more so because I have fair skin. No 1 priority for this skin concern is to stay out of the sun! Second best option? Wear an SPF daily. Ultimately my diet needs to include food rich in phytochemicals such as dark blue and red foods like berries, as well as those rich in retinoids like orange veggies.
DNA Skin Summary
- Use products with collagen boosting ingredients such as hyaluronic acid
- Wear sunscreen daily
- Eat lots of fruit and vegetables!
My DNA Health results
The DNA Health test is designed to optimise wellbeing and health by personalising lifestyle and diet choices and, where necessary, using supplements tailored to offset any particular nutritional deficit based on specific gene variants.
The DNA Health test is about assessing my unique health risks and then establishing the optimal nutrition necessary for good health, longevity and disease risk mitigation.
DNA Health tests for 36 gene variants involved in the following biological processes that have been linked to risk for diseases of lifestyle:
- Cholesterol metabolism and risk for heart disease
- Bone Health & risk for osteoporosis
- Vitamin B Metabolism and risk for cancer
- Inflammation and oxidative stress
- Insulin Sensitivity and risk for diabetes
- Food Responsiveness, including Lactose intolerance, Caffeine processing, Salt sensitivity and blood pressure & Iron overload disorders.
I was probably most concerned about this part of the test as initially I wondered if they might suddenly be coming back to tell me I had the BRCA gene and I wasn’t quite sure if I wanted to know that. Would you??
My fears were unfounded as I was to discover that DNAlysis don’t in fact offer the BRCA gene testing AND my health feedback turned out to be really good!
Each DNA test result comes back with a full breakdown and report of your high risk areas and specific genes that could possibly impact your health. Jessica was impressed with my results and I was relieved! My health report card was good with very few areas of concern (in the moderate impact zone and none in the high impact zone!). Turns out all my dodgy family history health problems are most likely because of poor lifestyle choices. Smoking, drinking, stress etc. If I manage my lifestyle (esp the stress!) I shouldn’t have many diseases coming my way!
So what were the areas I need to focus on with regards to my health?
No 1 for me is Cardio Vascular Health.
This is in fact a No 1 area of concern for many women (a silent killer)
Turns out my Lipid Metabolism is a bit concerning. I have the CETP gene which means that my levels of good cholesterol are lowered. Funnily enough I’d picked this up before when testing my cholesterol. Mine has always been high with the full lipogram saying my ratio of good to bad cholesterol was the wrong way around. Now I know why. I blame my genes! So how do I “fix” this? Well I need to eat more healthy fats such as flax seeds and walnuts and decrease saturated fat sources (e.g. butter, cream, full-cream dairy, red meat, chicken skin and coconut) and replace with mono-unsaturated fats (e.g. avocado, nuts, seeds, olives, olive oil and canola oil).
Another gene I have is known as PON1 which may be associated with coronary artery disease but also has role in healthy ageing. We’ll have to see how this one will play out!
COMT gene was another one I presented with and this means I should increase my intake of magnesium which is found in nuts, pumpkin seeds and healthy grains.
One of the biggest areas of concern for my particular genes is Methylation (or the lack thereof). This is a whole complicated area that I need to do more research on but can lead to an increased risk of Cardio Vascular Disease. Bottom line is that I should increase my vitamin B intake of B2, B6, B12 and folate (although it needs to be in the methylated form) Foods that I should eat more of include green leafy vegetables and legumes as well as meat.
Other areas of concern – Inflammation and Bone health. Neither are high risk, but it’s worth doing the following to improve my risk factors…
- Reduce sugar
- Increase Omega 3 intake (supplements or eat more fatty fish)
- Increase vitamin D & Calcium intake (and check levels annually)
- Get bone scans as I age
Another fascinating aspect of the DNA Health test as the Food sensitivity section. Turns out I am sensitive to caffeine (but this was just confirmation as I’ve always known I don’t react well to it!) Another thing I am sensitive to is bitter tastes (more than most people), which means I’m not partial to leafy greens but prefer sweeter vegetables… and the dessert table! Again nothing new here! 😉
DNA Health Summary
- Manage fats in my diet (choose healthy mono-unsaturated fats rather than saturated fats).
- Supplement with vitamin B, Magnesium, Omega 3’s.
My DNA Diet results
One of the first products of its kind in the world, DNA Diet from DNAlysis is designed to assist the healthcare practitioner in the design of a personalised healthy eating plan based on individual genetic differences which will ultimately assist with weight management.
It looks at things like your absorption and metabolism, energy homeostasis, carbohydrate responsiveness, fat metabolism, obesity and satiety, regulation of metabolism & feeding behaviour as well as regulation of energy intake, exercise responsiveness, circadian rhythms and inflammation.
DNA Diet provides insight into how each individual reacts to carbohydrates, saturated fats and intensity of exercise, allowing a dietician to personalise an eating plan to suit your needs. Overweight and obesity are risk factors for poor health and various chronic diseases. Weight management and healthy eating are integral to long-term health. Research suggests that individuals do respond differently to different food combinations and no ONE way of eating is right for everyone.
DNA Diet tests a number of well-researched gene variations that impact metabolism, absorption and storage of fats and carbohydrates, as well as eating behaviour. They analyse these SNPs to understand how an individual’s genetic profile will impact their response to what we believe to be the three most effective healthy eating plans: Low fat, Mediterranean, and Low Carbohydrate.
DNA Diet is not a diet plan and simply having the test done wont lead to a magical drop in weight. It is a tool that will help you to better understand your genetic profile, and allow a medical professional to recommend a healthy eating plan best suited to you. Hard work and determination are still needed to follow the guidance given by the health professional.
DNA Diet tests some of the following genes involved in key metabolic processes:
|Relevant area||Gene name|
|Obesity risk/ insulin resistance||FTO|
|Carbohydrates and obesity||ADRB2|
My DNA Diet came with a recommended diet to follow of Low Carb which means I need to eat a more high protein diet with some fats. I should not eliminate carbs altogether but should rather choose high quality carbs.
Jessica, the dietician I chatted to via Skype, was super helpful in explaining more about my specific genes and how they affect my body…
Let’s just say it wasn’t pretty!!! But in some weird way it was really useful to have some of my concerns confirmed (I’ve struggled to lose the baby weight for almost 12 years and now I have genetic proof!!)
This insight has also given me motivation to make some changes that will positively affect me, my body and my health – and are not just fall for passing fad diet that won’t impact me at all (or worse, have a detrimental affect!)
Some of the genes that showed up in my genetic makeup:
ADR2 – Apparently this gene means my body is slow to break down fat cells to release energy during exercise which means I lose weight more slowly. This gene indicates that diet is particularly important for weight management, that I have a high risk of gaining weight and that it’s NB for me to set realistic weight loss goals.
PLIN – Weight loss is slower with a reluctance to use fat stores for people who carry this gene, BUT this gene needs some carbs to avoid these negative risks. That is why my recommendation is to not totally cut out carbs but simply reduce carb intake and ensure most carbs are high fibre options.
TAS1R2 – The sweet tooth gene (and oh boy do I know it!) As some with this gene I get greater enjoyment from sweet foods than other people and my perception of foods is sweeter. This gene can be activated and deactivated by how much sweet stuff I eat. And the funny thing is that I actually have been aware of this. When I travelled out of a chocolate area for 2 weeks and had limited access I found I actually stopped craving it! So less is less in this case.
FABP2 – This gene influences fat absorption and metabolism and I am at higher risk of increased abdominal fat due to this gene allowing potentially greater fat absorption and slower metabolism. Reducing total fat in my diet is best suited to combat this as well as physical activity to boost metabolism and increase insulin sensitivity.
APOA5 – The T allele on this gene indicates high risk for gaining weight and less weight loss when following a high fat diet that is rich in saturated fats which is why it’s NB for me to watch fat intake and avoid saturated fats like butter, cream, meat and coconut oil. Rather choose mono-unsaturated fats such as nuts, nut butters, avocado, olive oil and seeds.
DRD2 – This is the extreme eating behaviours gene and can be a pre-cursor for binge eating and alcohol addiction. Scary! The reason behind this is that my Dopamine pathways are inhibited and I don’t get the same release of Dopamine that others get when they eat something delicious. I just want more! My body craves the Dopamine and wants more (and more!) high sugar and high fat foods. Buffets are my downfall according to Jessica (but, again, I was aware of this! Now I just have GENETIC PROOF!)
And just when it was starting to sound all rather depressing… I discovered I actually have beneficial gene amongst them all (thanks folks!)
UCP3 – This gene offers protection against a higher BMI and is therefore a beneficial gene variant. Following a low caloric diet can further the benefit and be beneficial to my weight. This doesn’t mean extreme dieting, rather managed portions!
So it looks like I have a lot of work to do in the diet department…
DNA Diet Summary
- Reduce carb intake.
- Be strict with carbs for a limited period (approx 2 weeks), slowly add healthy carbs (such as fruit, barley, quinoa, chickpeas) for lunch. Take fibre when eating no carbs.
- Avoid unprocessed carbs, saturated fats and sweet foods! SOB SOB
- Choose mono-unsaturated fats and eat in moderation.
- Do 20 MET hours (not actual hours!) of medium to high intensity exercise per week. (according to chart provided)
- For me diet is more impactful than exercise on my weight!
- Practice more mindful eating – slow down, no distractions, eat at the table, be aware of sensory aspect of meals (tastes, textures etc), managed portions.
There you have it! The results of my DNA test in South Africa. (Well not ALL of them. I don’t want to find myself cloned somewhere on the planet one day!)
I found the results of the DNA tests super fascinating. Sometimes a bit frustrating (you can’t change those genes you’re dealt!) BUT I also found that the results of my DNA test are actually quite motivating. Now I know that I have specific areas of concern for my skin, health and diet which are unique to me and by improving my lifestyle choices and tweaking my daily decisions I can have a positive impact on my overall well-being.
So? After reading up about my results and experience would you take a DNA test?
What does the DNA test cost?
The various DNA tests mentioned in this article cost between R2500 and R4300 depending on the DNA test option selected.
Where can I do the DNA test?
All these DNA tests are available from participating optiphi® skin centres. For more information contact your optiphi® skin professional or email [email protected]