Advice Column, Health, Lifestyle, Nutrition

Genetic Testing & Nutrition

  • Paarl Dietitians
  • Category Advice Column, Health, Lifestyle, Nutrition

Ever wondered why nutrition studies demonstrate so many conflicting results or why some people respond to one type of diet and others don’t? It might be because of us. Well, because of our different genes.

Just about everybody benefits from a diet consisting mostly of whole, fresh foods. But when it comes to fine tuning for sport performance, weight loss or optimum health – our needs and reactions to specific foods might differ.

And this difference likely depends on genetic variation. Humans are 99.5% the same, yet that 0.5% difference matters.

This specific question led to the emerging science of genetic testing, called nutritional genomics (a.k.a. nutrigenomics) – the study of interactions between genes and diet.


Your ability to lose weight and predisposition to specific illnesses all depend on how your genes interact with your environment. For instance, your genes may suggest that you’ll grow to somewhere between 1.65m to 1.7m. But your actual height is an interaction between genes and environment. If you grow up malnourished, you won’t reach 1.7m.

What we eat early in life (and what our moms eat while they’re pregnant) can affect our genes and regulate our traits – including development of diseases, even decades later.

Our genes can be influenced by all kinds of things, such as:

  • Nutrient deficiencies or excesses (especially at crucial developmental stages)
  • Dietary components (omega-3 fats, phytoestrogens, cruciferous vegetables, folate, to name a few)
  • Sunlight and vitamin D
  • Toxins (such as industrial chemicals, pesticides, heavy metals)
  • Bacteria and viruses
  • Exercise
  • Alcohol and other drugs
  • Circadian rhythms (such as sleep, shift work, travel across time zones)
  • A host of other factors we probably don’t even know yet.

It sounds a little scary…… but while we can’t control our genes themselves, WE CAN CONTROL HOW OUR GENES ARE EXPRESSED – whether they’re likely to get “switched on” or off.

Genetic expression is strongly shaped by our environment, over which we DO have some power. So, if we know more about our genetic defects (called genetic variants), we might be able to adjust our lifestyle or environment in order to be healthier and prevent some illnesses.

For example, some gene variants can tell us how your body metabolize certain foods. Others can tell us whether or not carcinogens in cooked meats will influence the development of colon cancer. And others can predict inflammatory response and predict DNA repair. Genetic testing may also be useful in exercise prescriptions. Specific genes have been identified with athletic potential and performance.

If we know more about our own unique risk factors, we might be more likely to make healthier choices – choices that could impact our genetic expression 


It is as simple as 1-2-3!

Do a cheek swab

DNA testing is easy and painless, by taking a cheek swab sample (like they do in Crime Scene Investigations on TV) and then sending the sample back to the DNAlysis laboratory for analysis. Here they use modern technology to analyse a person’s sample in order to identify genetic variants and study the relationship between individual genes and diet – thereby gaining intimate knowledge about physiological processes that may not function optimally.

Unlock your results

DNA reports are generated that allows an individual to understand how their genes affect the way he or she respond to the environment e.g. the foods they consume or toxins they are exposed to.

Optimise your diet and training plan

DNA reports are used to refine your nutrition and exercise plan to manage your weight and health. Providing you with a diet plan tailored to your genes (be it low carb or low fat) and insight into optimal exercise intensity for weight loss. However, some people have the gene where physical activity does not help them lose weight! Certain genetic variants can shape possible behaviour traits such as impulsive tendencies and addictions. Knowing, for instance, that you’re probably constantly looking for a reward can help you understand why you might be more drawn to an exciting sport or tasty snack. And help you work with your dietitian and trainer to find nutritional, exercise and behavioural strategies that work for you.



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. It provides insight into how our bodies respond to different types of foods, it may also have a powerful influence on what we like to eat (bitter vegetables or sweets) as well as why some people get fat and others stay thin. Some gene variants affect appetite and satiety. Others appear to influence how efficiently people burn fat for energy. The DNA DIET report provides additional insight into how each individual reacts to carbohydrates, saturated fats and intensity of exercise, allowing a trained Nutrigenomic practitioner to further personalise your eating plan to suit your needs. DNA Diet tests some of the following genes involved in key metabolic processes:

  • Obesity risk / insulin resistance
  • Binge eating
  • Carbohydrates metabolism
  • Fat absorption


DNA HEALTH tests for 36 gene variants that are known to have a significant effect on health and susceptibility to chronic diseases. DNA Health reports on genes involved in the following areas:

  • Cholesterol metabolism and risk for heart disease
  • Bone Health & risk for osteoporosis
  • Vitamin B Metabolism and risk for cancer
  • Inflammation and oxidative Stress
  • Detoxification
  • Insulin sensitivity/resistance and risk for diabetes
  • Food Responsiveness, including Lactose intolerance, Caffeine processing, Salt sensitivity and blood pressure & Iron overload disorders


DNA SPORT tests genetic variants that influence injury risk, recovery, as well as power and endurance performance. Results provide insight into various biological areas that impact training responsiveness and sporting performance, optimal exercise selection, and injury and recovery strategies. The test is suitable for the elite performance athlete as well as the recreational athlete looking to maximize their fitness potential and reach peak levels of conditioning. DNA Sport reports on the following areas:

  • Structural integrity of soft tissues
  • Inflammation and oxidative stress
  • Blood flow and respiration
  • Energy during exercise
  • Caffeine metabolism
  • Muscle and bone composition
  • Power/Strength potential


DNA OESTROGEN tests for gene variants that have been shown to have an impact on how oestrogen is processed in your body and if the processing of oestrogen and related compounds is efficient and healthy. It reports on the following areas:

  • Variations in key genes involved in metabolizing oestrogen and related compounds
  • Impact of high-risk gene variations
  • Intervention strategies for carriers of high-risk genetic variations
  • Personal risk factors associated with HRT, Oral contraceptives, bio-identical supplementation and in vitro fertilisation (IVF).
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