What my DNA says about my health and fitness potential
I was offer a DNA test to “discover the inner you”. The Evergreen app and DNA test offers advice and tips on diet, metabolism, fitness and skincare. I thought this might be interesting so I agreed to take part.
First you need an Evergreen Life DNA test. It costs £125. A square, lightweight box arrives in the post with the instructions on how to take a DNA sample from inside your mouth. It’s easy and pain free.
You then send the DNA test off. Presumably to a lab.
Evergreen Life states: “With a simple cheek swab, our DNA genetic testing kits help you discover the secrets to a healthier life. We use SNP genotyping to determine your genetic makeup and identify which traits you have, so you can find out more about your diet, fitness, metabolism and skin.”
A couple of weeks later an email popped into my email inbox to say that “the day has arrived”. This led me to the Evergreen Life app
Checking your health and fitness
Making sure you’re on top of your fitness progress when exercising can be tricky. But with the Evergreen Lifeapp, which is free to download, you can work out the best strategy.
Once the DNA test results are returned, you enter your personal code into the app and then find out a range of information. It includes information such as your body’s nutrients, type of metabolism, likelihood to store fat or gain muscle and how your body responds to diet and keeping fit.
I confess I was a little taken aback by the amount of information supplied – and also a bit overwhelmed by what it all meant. It took me a while to understand various sections and to pick out salient points. Here is some of what I discovered.
What my DNA says about my health
At a glance:
- Increased salt craving
- Flush reaction with alcohol
- Lactose tolerance
- No Omega 3 or 6 deficiency
- Typical sugar craving.
- Enhanced cardio performance
- Increased endurance versus strength performance
- Typical recovery from exercise
- Reduced fat loss from endurance exercise
- Lower inflammation levels after power training
- Increased capability for muscle growth
- Typical risk of injury.
- Average skin elasticity
- Increased risk of developing cellulite
- Increased risk from UB light
- Increased risk of skin spots and stretch marks
- Typical skin ageing
- Average skin moisture
- Likely to have normal levels of bad cholesterol
- Likely to have normal levels of cholesterol
- Less likely to gain weight
- Reduced monosaturated fat metabolism etc
A more in-depth look
I was interested to find out more about some of the results. This is what I discovered.
Folic Acid – Increase risk of deficiency
This worried me. But I was told that it means that people like me with my genotype are more likely to develop folic acid deficiency due to having a lesser ability to convert folate into folic acid.
The only time this is likely to become a serious issue is during pregnancy as folic acid levels drop during pregnancy. (I took folic acid tablets back then so all turned out well.)
I have also read that folic acid is important for some women post-menopausal . Folic acid may offer an alternative to the conventional HRT for postmenopausal women with hot flushes. Supplements of folic acid to prevent depression symptoms in postmenopausal women is also sometimes recommended.
There are certain foods/supplements to make sure folate intake is sufficient enough to reduce the chances of your folic acid levels becoming a deficient level. Here are a few:
- Most multivitamin/mineral supplements
- Legumes – including beans, peas and lentils
- Leafy Greens
- Citrus Fruits
- Sprouts and Broccoli
- Nuts and seeds.
The average adult needs 400mcg of dietary folate equivalents per day, while pregnant women require 600mcg per day.
Caffeine Metabolism – Fast Metaboliser
Having a fast metabolism of caffeine means that the time taken for the drug to get in and out of my system is faster than others. This has its pros and cons.
The positives of this are that with the drug passing through my system fairly quickly, this means that I’m likely to be able to intake caffeine later in the day without affecting my sleep (actually I find caffeine does affect my sleep if I have a cup after 1pm).
(Meanwhile, a slow metaboliser would need to halt their intake of caffeine around 8-10 hours before they plan to go to bed.)
The drawbacks of this relate to my caffeine intake. Granted the drug is likely to be out of my system fairly quickly, so there is a higher chance i will ant more of it. (I do!) However, a high caffeine intake could have some adverse effects on my health and wellbeing.
Tendency to overeat – Inconclusive
This result has come back as “inconclusive”. Apparently, it’s not always possible to obtain a clear result for some DNA variations (SNPs) due to biological or technical complications.
This means that such results are not accurate enough to provide a clear report.
The overeating identifier is interesting, however. A study into food reinforcement found a significant link in a person’s genetics. It demonstrated how much effort people were willing to put into obtaining food as a reward and found that there was a genetic component linked to food desire behaviour and a tendency to overeat.
It was found that among the people in the study, those who were considered obese and had a “T” variant in this SNP, were more likely to make an effort to obtain food as a reward.
People who did not have the T variant were more likely to display typical levels of food reinforcement.
This SNP related to the DRD2 gene is connected to the reward system of the brain. It influences how the brain uses dopamine, a neurotransmitter relating to rewards and behaviour, which may lead to increased behaviours that provide immediate rewards, like smoking or overeating. This part of the brain is also related to addictive behaviours.
Cholesterol – likely to have typical levels
This can be very helpful to know. If this result was the opposite, i.e. I had a likelihood to have high levels of cholesterol, I may want to get that checked. Even with this typical result, it’s advised that I may still want to get my cholesterol checked.
However, the genotype that I have in relation to cholesterol is common in people with typical/normal levels of cholesterol.
Monounsaturated Fat metabolism – Reduced Metabolism
Having a reduced monounsaturated fat metabolism means my BMI and levels of body fat are less likely to improve as a result of eating a higher fat diet such as the Keto or Atkins diet.
The study behind this result showed that people with this genotype did not benefit in their BMI or body fat when their calorie intake consisted of 13% or more monounsaturated fats.
Carbohydrate metabolism – Reduced metabolism
Having a reduced carbohydrate metabolism means that I’m likely to experience a prolonged rise in blood sugar levels while my body copes with the amount of new glucose in my system.
A person with a typical metabolism would deal with this glucose a little faster. The risks of having elevated blood glucose levels for prolonged periods of time include increasing your resting blood glucose and contributing towards your risk of developing type 2 diabetes.
On the whole, I am advised to combine carbohydrate and monounsaturated fat metabolism results to help me to strategise my diet.
A reduced result for both suggests that I may want to focus mainly on my protein intake. However, with a typical carbohydrate metabolism I am fine to have a slightly higher concentration of carbohydrates in my diet.
However, I should still avoid very high Glycaemic Load foods, including sugary drinks, white carbs and low-fibre cereals. (I already do this…)
Likely to have higher BMI
My weight and therefore BMI are determined by a combination of genetic and environmental factors. My genes can say one thing and yet I may lead a lifestyle that creates the opposite.
The DNA test result indicates that people with the same genotype as me are usually likely to have a high weight/BMI. This does not mean to say they cannot lead a lifestyle, even from a very young age, that allows them to lose weight/refrain from gaining weight their entire life.
It seems I have beaten my genes!
Fat loss from strength training – reduced
During testing, people with this genotype were shown to burn less fat than others during a strength training session. Having this genotype suggests that I may want to consider other methods of training if my goal is to lose fat.
It could be that endurance exercise would be better for any fat loss success.
Increased risk of joint injury
This genetic predisposition can increase my risk of joint injury throughout my life. This can be “beaten” or avoided by taking necessary safety measures, such as effective warm ups and cool downs and avoiding high risk exercises.
My diet can also assist in maintaining strong joints.
My thoughts on the DNA test
The test has been interesting although quite complex. It could be very useful for some people in helping to strategise diet, exercise and other aspects of their lifestyle. It can help you make beneficial decisions upon:
- Dietary approach (proteins, carbs and fats and dairy)
- Vitamin intakes (whether it be in foods or via supplementation)
- Exercise session planning (more strength/endurance/power training programmes)
- Safety issues around exercises (avoiding injury and inflammation).
The Evergreen Lifeapp also allows you to keep track of your diet and fitness progress. You can monitor your own health and fitness all in one place, tracking muscle mass, body fat percentage, waist to hip ratio, hydration and many other measurements.
If you are the sort of person who enjoys the details and you want to try a more science based approach this could be for you. Quite a number of my test results seemed inconclusive, however. Although there was enough useful information for me to take note of how I might be fitter and healthier.
I used to take my fitness and health for granted but as I have become older I have thought about it a great deal more. This DNA testing has been interesting, surprising on occasions and enlightening.
See Evergreen Life.