Can Genetic Testing Reveal Your Ideal Diet?
Is the field of nutrigenomics real science or closer to science fiction?
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On last week’s show, I talked about a blood test that supposedly reveals hidden food sensitivities. This week, I want to talk about another medical test that’s being marketed directly to consumers. Several companies now claim they can tell you exactly what you should eat and which supplements you need, based on your DNA.
Here’s how it works: You swab the inside of your cheek with a Q-Tip and mail it to a lab. The lab analyzes the sample for a series of genetic variations that supposedly reveal your risk of certain diseases or explain why you can’t lose weight. Based on that, they provide a customized diet and supplement plan that will allegedly correct or compensate for any genetic weaknesses and help you lose weight and/or lower your risk of diseases. The test isn’t cheap--it’ll run you several hundred dollars. And the customized supplements are quite pricey as well. Is this a good investment in your health?
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What Do Your Genes Say About Your Health?
The goal of personalized medicine is not a bad one. It’s also not a new one. When health practitioners ask about your family history, they are seeking clues to your genetic background and using that information to customize treatment. If you have immediate family members who have had colon cancer, for example, your doctor might recommend earlier and more frequent screening for you than he or she would for someone with no such family history. If I see someone whose parents both had Type 2 diabetes, I know that person is at increased risk of developing diabetes and tailor my dietary advice accordingly. The idea is that no two humans are the same and the more information we can gather about a patient the better we’ll be able to treat him.