picture of three DNA strands

Genetic Testing for Your Lifestyle

Direct-to-Consumer (DTC) Genetic Tests are genetic tests that are sold directly to the consumer without inclusion of a healthcare professional, usually via the internet. Consumers who buy the DTC genetics tests typically send a saliva sample to the company and receive their results in the mail or on the internet via an online account. Companies may identify anywhere from a single gene variant to up to several hundreds of gene variants. Some of these companies sell “nutrigenetic” tests to identify individuals’ susceptibilities for lifestyle-related diseases, such as cardiovascular disease as well as provide advice on nutrition and supplements. Other companies sell tests that are not marketed as nutrigenetic, but offer dietary advice and workout regimens, along with life-style related diseases. These tests can range anywhere from $100 to several thousands of dollars. The costs of the tests are related to the number of gene variants tested and how detailed the results are.

The idea that we all have our own “nutritional blueprint” is a wonderful and curious concept. We all want to know what types of exercises and foods are best for our body type. It is thought that if people have and know this information, they might be more willing or inclined to change their diet and workout routines to get their optimal body shape.

However, it is very important to remember that our genes are not the only things that determine our weight or the decisions we make about food. Our genes only tell us about 5-10% of the risk that is linked to diet-related diseases such as obesity and type-2 diabetes. It is more about our behavior than our genes. It is important to be physically active each day and consume a balanced diet that includes a variety of fruits, vegetables, whole grains, lean protein, and low fat dairy while limiting intake of saturated fat, sodium, and added sugar.

Sources: National Public Radio – Personalized Diets: Can Your Genes Really Tell You What To Eat? & National Institutes of Health – State of play in direct-to-consumer genetic testing for lifestyle-related diseases: market, marketing content, user experiences and regulation