The revolution of personalized medicine has drawn the attention of individuals who wish to be more involved in their health by participating in preventative habits. In response to this shift, companies like Pathway Genomics have developed a way for people to access more information about their health using a simple blood draw or saliva sample.
Nutrigenomics is the study of how an individual’s genes are associated with physical and nutritional health. The results from these tests can be used to help individuals, in conjunction with their doctor, make healthier lifestyle choices. But what exactly can these tests tell us?
- How You Gain Weight
Genetic markers reveal information about how fast your body metabolizes food and nutrients, your likelihood of becoming obese, how efficient your body is in losing weight, and how likely you are to regain weight after losing it.
Eating behaviors may also play a role in weight gain. Understanding why you are more likely to snack or be lured by sweets, why you may find it difficult to resist tempting foods such as those high in fat and calories, and why you may never feel full after eating can help your doctor set realistic and specific goals when adopting healthy eating habits.
- What Type of Exercise is Best For You
Does your body respond better to endurance training or strength training? Understanding how your body responds to certain types of exercise can help you get the most out of your workout.
Some of the aspects analyzed in a nutrigenomics test include:
- How does exercise affect your BMI?
- How does exercise affect insulin sensitivity (how quickly your body absorbs glucose from the bloodstream after exercise)?
- How does exercise affect your HDL levels?
- How does exercise affect your blood pressure?
Knowing the answer to these questions can help your healthcare provider create an exercise plan that best fits your personal needs to reach optimal health.
- Whether You Are a Carrier of a Genetic Disorder
Many inherited genetic disorders are recessive, meaning that a mutation on the same gene must be received by both parents for the condition to develop. An individual who carries one recessive gene with a MTHFR mutation will not exhibit symptoms of the disorder, but is a genetic carrier (and could pass the disorder down to their children).
You may benefit from genetic carrier testing if:
- You want to know your risk of passing on an inherited disease to your children
- You belong to a high-risk ethnicity group
- You have a family history of a genetic disorder
Knowing whether you are a carrier before trying to conceive allows you time to speak to your partner and work with a genetic counselor to discuss your risk. It also allows them the time to explore alternative options for conception if they desire.
- Your Risk of Developing Hereditary Breast Cancer
Scientists have discovered significant genetic markers associated with high-risk hereditary breast cancer. Analyzing these genes provides healthcare providers with valuable information regarding one’s risk of developing breast cancer. For example, being of Ashkenazi Jewish heritage is a factor that increases breast cancer risk. Understanding your risk can help guide your physician in creating a prevention and surveillance strategy as well as allow time to develop an appropriate treatment plan.
Work With an Expert
It is important to work with a healthcare provider to fully understand the results of these tests. Your doctor will be able to help you tailor a diet and exercise plan specific to the needs of your body. Information that pertains to inherited genetic disorders or the development of cancer gives you and your doctor the time to plan certain measures in pregnancy monitoring and cancer prevention.