We Tried 3 DNA Tests to Determine Our Ideal Diet and Fitness Plan
New DNA tests offer insights to help users tailor their diet and exercise for optimum health benefits. Here, three Best Health editors try out three different tests.
What it is
“The Joga Code reveals genetic opportunities and/or sensitivities that our bodies have to food and training methods,” says Nora Debora, Joga’s Toronto-based in-house nutritional practitioner. This DNA test not only provides you with a total of 15 outputs (five for each category: nutrition, training and wellness), but once purchased, you’ll have lifetime access to your results as new outputs become available.
At the Joga House, you’ll begin by taking a swab from the inside of your cheek. Your swab is then sent off to their GeneBlueprint crew at McMaster University and processed in a lab for 14 days. Once you receive an email of your DNA results, you can schedule a one-hour consultation with Nora to review over the baseline genetics of your fuel (nutrition) and function (fitness) output scores.
After your first one-hour consultation, Nora advises that you take the necessary time to read over your results — or rather, what she likes to call your “DNA Playbook.” “Empowering yourself with this information helps you better understand the whys and hows of your baseline genetics,” she explains. “Then, once you’re comfortable with your playbook, choose one aspect and start with small steps. “For instance, two nutrition outputs that are revealed are fat tolerance and carbohydrate tolerance, which identify your genetic baseline as to how your body processes these macronutrients,” she says. “We then provide you with the tools for building your plate, including what fats and carbohydrates to emphasize and avoid.” Keep in mind that whatever result your outputs reveal, your score is not set-in-stone. Within your playbook, you’re given a certain percentage for each output score that takes into account how your genes can be influenced by your environment. Lifestyle choices such as sleep, physical activity, social support, and stress management, can all improve your genetic baseline and help lead you to a desired result.
During your second sit-down with Nora, you’ll be provided with a code-specific nutrition plan based on your results. (There are four standard codes, each with a nutrition plan already built into them.) This nutrition plan is comprised of different protein, fat and carbohydrate recommendations, recipes, and gut-healthy strategies to help you reach an optimal state of health. But, a more personalized nutrition plan is available (at an extra cost) if you’re looking to dive deeper into any specific health goals or concerns you may have.
Then, analyzing your function outputs (endurance, HIIT, power, and strength), pay close attention to what your baseline shows a natural liking to and focus on those specific exercise programs. Plus, you can use your one-year unlimited Joga House membership to get started on your training right away.
What I learned
After reviewing my fuel results, I learned that I have a low fat and carbohydrate tolerance. This means that I have a high-sensitivity and should be more conscious of how much I consume during each meal. It turns out, I’m a code 4 — meaning that I should be loading up my plate with 30 percent fats, 30 percent carbohydrates, and 40 percent protein. But what’s so great about this program? It gives you a breakdown of what type of fats, carbohydrates and protein foods are best suited for your specific code. In a nutshell: I’ve been fuelling my body wrong all of these years.
My biggest meal adjustment was breakfast. Considering I’m more of a grab-a-coffee and run-out-the-door kind of gal, Nora recommended that I start the day with two scrambled or hard-boiled eggs for protein, half an avocado for fats, and one slice of Ezekiel bread for my carbohydrate intake. Another major adjustment was caffeine. Even though my genes determined a low sensitivity, Nora stressed the importance of reducing my coffee intake from five to one cup per day. The idea behind these morning changes is to help set me up for an increase in energy and improvement in concentration and alertness throughout the day, without relying on caffeine as my source.
But one result that truly didn’t surprise me was my joint health. My score came back very low, indicating that genetically, I have poor cartilage thickness. Being that I tend to suffer from pain and stiffness in my hands and wrists already, at the age of 26, this output result was very concerning. Nora advised for me to start consuming foods with anti-inflammatory properties (think: salmon, almonds, spinach, and turmeric) to reduce inflammation, as well as add in collagen as a daily supplement to help improve my joint cartilage. (Psst: These anti-aging secrets could add years to your life.)
In terms of my function results, they indicated that I’m more suited for HIIT and power-intensive workouts. I also learned that I have a lower capacity for endurance and strength-based training. Now reflecting back on my many years of competitive figure skating, it’s no wonder I had a hard time making it through my programs when competing.
Over the past couple of months, I’ve worked in little-by-little the changes recommended by Nora. And although it’s been quite the learning process, I’m so glad that I am now more aware of my body’s nutrition and training needs.
Joga Code, $650 for DNA swab and consults + $50 per month for 11 months; available at Joga House Yorkville and jogahouse.com.
– Alyssa Ball, assistant digital editor
What it is
MyDNA is a test aimed at determining the best diet and exercise plan based on your unique genetic makeup.
Simply open your kit, activate it online and then send in a cheek swap with the prepaid postage included in the kit. The steps were simple and significantly less gross than filling a tube with spit, as some other tests (that I won’t name) require.
Once your results are in, you can explore your nutrition or fitness reports. I started with nutrition report, on the off chance I’d discover I’m an anomaly whose body is best fueled by coffee and candy (Spoiler alert: I’m not). Instead, it gave me detailed results on what my optimal diet type is and why, as well as how many calories I should be eating per day, and what portions of macronutrients (proteins, carbs, fats) I need. These are based not only on my genes but my weight, gender and what I’m looking to do, whether it’s to lose or maintain weight. You can also download your detailed report, that explains further how these conclusions were made.
The other component to this test is your fitness results. You can navigate the dashboard to see whether you’re suited to power, endurance or both. It shows how well you fair in terms of stamina, injury and recovery. Then, you can explore a program based on your level of skill (beginner, intermediate, etc.) to help you maintain a well-rounded physicality.
What I learned
I learned that based on my DNA, I should be eating a low fat, omega-3 rich diet. I don’t eat meat, so that affirmed that my eating habits were generally on track, but knowing that I should aim to have more omega-3 fatty acids in my diet was helpful. This program gives you a download of your detailed nutrition report, which explains how the conclusions were made and the science behind it. For instance, my weight and appetite finding is based on the FTO gene. My variation of this gene isn’t associated with a higher risk of obesity or increased appetite. This is considered a good thing and decreases my likelihood of becoming obese. In terms of not-so-favourable results, the PPARG is the gene associated with fat storage. My variation suggests that when I eat more food than I need, it will be stored as fat. You can see a breakdown of all the genes associated with weight management and how your body processes lipids, and how well you faired on each.
In my fitness report, I learned that I’m slightly more suited to power than endurance, and have the ability to recover on a quicker-than-average rate. My report gave a detailed breakdown of everything from flexibility, to muscle strength, energy and more. I learned that I have exceptional muscle energy, which means I’m suited to short bursts of exercises. It then broke down what this means and what activities this will be most useful in — like HIIT workouts. I also learned that I have minimal muscle power, based on my genes — meaning I’ll have to exercise more intensely than others to achieve the same results.
MyDNA Personalized Nutrition and Fitness Report, $99; available at mydna.life
– Courtney Reilly-Larke, associate editor
What it is
Genotique is a Toronto-based start-up that offers a DNA-based nutrition and fitness advice program. Founder Aylia Mohammadi, a health scientist, will analyze the results of each user’s DNA test and provide a tailored program with a one-on-one consult. The DNA test offers insight into how your genes might influence recommendations related to weight management, body composition, food intolerances, fitness performance and more.
After submitting the DNA sample (a small test tube of saliva that’s sent to a genetic clinic called Nutrigenomix for analysis) and completing an intake form online, I waited a couple of weeks until my results were ready. At that point, rather than getting the results and attempting to decode them on my own, Genotique requires you to have a one-on-one session so you can truly understand the results and how they apply to your lifestyle. I scheduled an appointment (via video chat) with Aylia to discuss my results and receive suggestions that I would actually be able to implement. “It’s a very holistic way of looking at it. We’re humans; we’re not robots,” says Aylia. “We have our hardware, which is our DNA but there’s so much more. You have to be able to sustain it.”
What I learned
The 24-page document I received from Nutrigenomix and Genotique was comprehensive on its own but I found it really valuable to go over the results with an expert. The report begins with a summary of results, but Aylia and I skipped that and went straight to the more in-depth breakdown so she could explain things as they might apply to my lifestyle.
First up was an analysis of my “Nutrient Metabolism.” This looks at how well I metabolize and use the food and nutritional components I consume. I was determined to have an elevated risk of vitamin B12 deficiency (1 in 2 people have this risk variant), an elevated risk of low vitamin D and iron levels, and an increased risk for bone fractures if my calcium intake is below the daily recommendation (1 in 6 people have this risk variant).
Next, the report looked at “Cardiometabolic Health,” which is basically how my body handles things like caffeine, whole grains, sodium, saturated fat. The recommendations I received in this section were what I’d consider typical health suggestions (ie. consume most grains in the form of whole grains, limit sodium consumption, limit saturated fat).
The third section, “Weight Management and Body Composition,” was interesting. I was found to posses the gene variant that could mean my Resting Metabolic Rate (RMR) is slightly lower than those with the typical risk variant. If I wanted to lose weight, these results suggest that I might need to increase my daily calorie deficit by an additional 150 calories (650 calories in total) in order to see results.
Next, a section on “Food Intolerances” showed I had an elevated risk for lactose intolerance and a medium risk for gluten intolerance. (According to the report, 70 percent of the population have a low risk for gluten intolerance, 20 percent have a medium risk, and 10 perfect have a high risk.)
The final section “Fitness and Physical Activity” offered insight into the types of physical activity I might benefit most from. According to my results, I may have a genetic advantage in strength and power-based activities. My endurance potential was ranked as typical. Interestingly, I was also found to have a heightened pain tolerance and an elevated risk for Achilles tendon injury.
Genotique plans start at $199; available at genotique.com
– Melissa Greer, digital editor
Next, check out 10 crucial health tweaks to make by your 50s.