Personalized Nutrition: Achieving Optimal Health through Genetic Testing

Published on March 06, 2019 by Dr. Robyn Murphy

Over the decades, authorities have published public dietary and nutritional guidelines in an attempt to inform individuals about the healthiest choices to optimize health and prevent disease. However, conflicting and sometimes contradictory messaging has often led to more confusion than clarity. With so many different types of diets and supplements available it is difficult to know if they are really right for you. We have all heard some people say that certain diets work wonders for them but unfortunately not all see the same success. 

Part of the reason there are wide variations in individual responses to different diets and nutrition is due to genetic variation. People are unique at every single level of their being, from their hair colour to their cells, which are influenced by our environment, dietary traditions and genetic individuality. Advances in understanding the complexities of human metabolism, including the nutrient pathways, enzymes and genes that those pathways depend on, uncover how certain versions of genes (SNPs) may act as metabolic “roadblocks”. As we will see, these genetic changes account for variations in an individual’s predisposition to disease and response to dietary interventions. In addition, SNPs can help predict the most appropriate dose and form of certain nutrients.

No More ‘One Size Fits All’: Personalized Treatment Strategies Backed by Research

We know from family and twin studies that there is a high degree of inheritance of certain chronic diseases, including obesity, metabolic syndrome and heart disease. The studies demonstrate a strong genetic influence in the risk of developing disease. Furthermore, significant advances in understanding the environment and gene interactions on the development of disease have led to our ability to predict the impact of nutrition on individual health. This understanding allows us to eliminate the ‘one size fits all approach’ when it comes to diet and nutrition.

Response to diet – Environment-gene interactions

There is a significant genetic predisposition to obesity, influencing caloric consumption, satiety levels, food choices and behaviour around food. The good news is that these risk factors can be significantly modulated through diet-gene interactions.

For Some, Protein is Key

The FTO gene, coined the fat-mass and obesity gene, significantly influences risk for weight gain, affecting satiety levels and total caloric intake. Those with a particular version of the gene have a 1.8-fold increased risk of obesity, higher BMI and waist circumference unless protein intake is above 18% of total energy intake. This variation also influences the ability to lose weight in response to diet and physical activity. Studies show that those with the AA genotype lost considerably more fat mass on a high protein diet, compared to individuals with the TT or TA genotypes who showed no difference in weight loss on a low protein versus a high protein diet. (Corella et al., 2012) (Merritt et al., 2018)

The Skinny on Total Fat and Saturated Fat

Significant advances in understanding the relationship between fat consumption and obesity have been revealed through genetics. In those with certain versions of the APOA2 gene, an increase in calorie consumption and weight gain exist. However, this effect is only present when those individuals have a diet high in saturated fat (more than 22g of fat). (Corella, 2009; Domínguez-Reyes et al., 2015).

In a study involving 1020 men and 1110 women, those with a certain version of the LIPC gene who consumed a diet with less than 30% of energy from fat had significantly higher HDL-C (good cholesterol) concentrations. If total fat consumption was above 30%, the effects were deleterious. This study shows clearly how the environment (in the form of diet) can impact genes. (Ordovas et al., 2002)

Improving Guidelines for Nutrients

Variations in the genetic code significantly influence risk for nutrient deficiency. Changes in your genes can impair nutrient absorption, transportation, cellular uptake, and intracellular conversion into active forms. (Paul and Brady, 2017) For example, genetic variations that affect folate metabolism and the subsequent production of homocysteine, an independent risk factor for heart disease, contribute to significant differences in folate and B12 requirements between individuals.

Research consistently shows that individuals with a certain version of the MTHFR gene have a reduction in folate levels in their blood and an elevation in homocysteine, even with the same dietary intake of folate as those with the normative version of the MTHFR gene. (Willems et al., 2004)

By understanding individual genetic variations, scientists can determine the specific form and dose of nutrients and supplements that are most effective for certain people. This has led to the development of improved vitamins and nutraceuticals. For example, the active form of folate, 5-MTHFR, which is seven times more bioavailable than its synthetic counterpart, folic acid, is now available. In the United States, the recommended daily allowance (RDA) of Vitamin B12 is set at 2.4 mcg per day. However, up to 30% of adults have issues absorbing B12, due to aging, digestive disease or genetics; their absorption rates may plummet to as low as 1%. Clinical studies show that high doses of B12, ranging from 1 to 3 mg in the form of methylcobalamin, are effective at overcoming absorption issues and inborn genetic variations of B12 metabolism. (Paul and Brady, 2017)

These examples show how understanding individual genetic variations can significantly impact the response to dietary interventions, nutrient dose and form and overall disease prevention. In 2015, the World Health Organization (WHO) modified its guidelines for optimal folate level as a result of this research. (Zhang et al., 2013)(National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine et al., 2018)

The Benefits of Genetic Testing

  • Individualized dietary strategies based on genetics and goals 
  • Enhanced individual responses to dietary and lifestyle interventions
  • Improving adherence to dietary modifications
  • Specifies proper dosing for nutrient supplementation
  • Preventing disease through diet and lifestyle
  • Improving public knowledge about disease, diet and lifestyle
  • Informing lifestyle and health-related decisions.

In a survey, those who received results from a genetic test were significantly more likely to seek out information about a disease, discuss results with their healthcare provider, change their diet, and start exercising more. (Kaufman et al., 2012)

What is the MyBlueprint Genetic Test?

AOR’s MyBlueprint Genetic test is a DNA-based test designed to empower individuals to improve their health and well-being through personalized, actionable nutrition, exercise and lifestyle recommendations that are tailored to their unique genetic makeup.

Customers receive a roadmap to a healthier lifestyle through a report revealing their propensity for specific nutritional deficiencies, intolerances/sensitivities, and the diets/fitness programs that may work best for preventing disease and supporting optimal health. Recommendations are based on a panel of approximately 100 genetic variants, and whether these are associated with normal or abnormal gene function.

AOR’s MyBlueprint Genetic Test is simple and personalized. Your report explains the easy steps you can take today to optimize your well-being.

What does the AOR MyBlueprint genetic test cover? The test examines 64 genes and 84 genetic markers, which are broken down into eight main categories, including:

  • Diet - Results provide individual dietary guidelines in relationship to the impact of fats (saturated, polyunsaturated, omega-3/6, arachidonic acid); carbohydrates (whole grains vs simple carbs); and specific dietary strategies to lower risk of chronic disease.
  • Specific Nutrient Needs – Reveals a detail list of individual nutritional requirements, including doses to overcome inborn genetic predispositions to deficiencies of; vitamins A, B2, B9/Folic Acid, B12, C, D, E; minerals - calcium, iron; omega-3 fatty acids; and choline; in addition to an increase in need for probiotics and antioxidants.
  • Food Sensitivities/Intolerances – Detects specific markers to reveal sensitives to alcohol; caffeine; gluten; lactose; and sodium.
  • Detoxification – Uncovers inborn insufficiencies for liver detoxification in relationship to the removal of chemicals in smoked & charred meats; ability to remove toxins using glutathione; products of methylation and sulfur metabolism and elimination of histamine.
  • Hormonal health – Identifies any predilection towards imbalances in testosterone or estrogen levels and significant variations that impact risk towards low thyroid function.
  • Physical fitness – Understand types of exercise, behaviours, recovery time and pain tolerance to direct choices with the most impact and benefit, while reducing the risk for injury.
  • Obesity Risk – Combining complex gene-gene interaction, identify your genetic obesity risk score and significant lifestyle modification strategies to reduce risk. Understand behavioural factors such as appetite, satiety and eating habits to further individualize strategies around weight loss.
  • Brain Health – Identify significant genetic factors that influence susceptibility to stress, alterations in mood; memory; and risk of addiction.

Why should I get my genes tested with AOR’s MyBlueprint?

The information from AOR’s MyBlueprint genetic test report helps to guide you towards more personalized, and therefore accurate, dietary choices, as well as genetically appropriate supplements and exercise strategies to achieve your health goals. MyBlueprint helps you to avoid the trial-and-error approach when it comes to nutrients and supplements. You’ll learn the appropriate form and dose of your nutrients, so you save time and money on health products that aren’t right for your genetic type. You’ll also understand how to address any underlying predispositions or tendencies for conditions like chronic inflammation, poor detoxification, nutrient deficiencies, reductions in muscle and cellular repair and hormone imbalances. You’ll be in a better position to prevent the development of future disease early on and to optimize your health long-term.

The AOR Advantage

Clear and reliable roadmap –The MyBlueprint test includes clinically relevant genes using the most up-to-date, evidence-based guidelines in the field of genomics. The report is laid out in clear, actionable steps and identifies your unique genetic variations in eight separate areas. These include lifestyle modifications and dietary and nutritional guidelines. We also provide useful clinical information such as follow-up lab testing and specific health products to discuss with your healthcare provider.

Advanced algorithm for multi-gene interactions – There are approximately 23,000 genes in the human genome that provide an ‘instruction manual’ for biochemical processes necessary for overall health. Cutting-edge research reveals significant interactions between genes and their overall impact on health and disease. Unlike many other products, the genetic outcomes in AOR’s report are determined based on the most recent research related to these gene-gene interactions, rather than a one-gene one-solution approach.

Highest standards for accuracy – The results of a genetic test can influence important health-related decisions, from lifestyle modification to testing and health products. Therefore, the accuracy of results is of highest priority. Processing of samples from AOR’s MyBlueprint genetic test go through a CLIA (Clinical Laboratory Improvement Amendment) lab that is subject to federal regulatory standards for health-related testing. Rigorous CLIA standards ensure analytic validity as well as accuracy and reliability of results. The lab uses a highly sensitive platform to run samples, validating each sample against controls to achieve a high level of accuracy and reproducibility (>99% call rates with > 99.7% accuracy). (Kaufman et al., 2012)

A unique pledge of customer privacy – Finally, there are growing concerns about privacy relating to the use of one’s personal genetic information. Specific legislature has been passed within North America prohibiting employers and insurance companies from discriminating against individuals based on the results of a genetic test. These include the Genetic Information Non-Discrimination Act (GINA) in the US and the Genetic Non-Discrimination Act (GNA) in Canada; however, these laws are not all-encompassing. Other direct-to-consumer (DTC) genetic companies sell de-identified genetic data collected from their testing to third-party companies for both research and product development purposes, including big pharma. While AOR is a strong supporter of research, we pledge to NEVER SELL anyone’s genetic data to a third party.

AOR’s new service launches April 2019. Stay tuned for more news.

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