Personal genotyping has been a tremendous boon for preventive medicine. By being able to identify diseases that individuals are genetically predisposed to, we are now able to recommend behavior and lifestyle changes that can, in many cases, completely avoid ever developing the disease. Imagine, for example, learning when you are 30 years old that you are genetically predisposed to Type 2 diabetes; do you think you’d make some diet and lifestyle changes immediately to prevent it? We can even use genotyping to give us a better understanding of what foods you should eat to optimize your personal health. Here’s a closer look at this cutting-edge medical science.
DNA Mapping Methods
There are several methods of mapping a person’s DNA. Here are the two most common ones that you have probably heard about:
- Whole Genome Sequencing: This method essentially maps out your entire DNA sequence. Every base from every chromosome is determined. It provides a huge volume of information on your DNA — almost too much to be useful. This method is also much more expensive and time-consuming.
- Genotyping: This method is the least expensive and quickest way to capture and map some of the most important sections of your DNA sequence. We know that certain sections of DNA have sequences that associate with characteristics — and genotyping “cherry picks” those sections.
Genotyping for Overall Health
After genotyping is done on your DNA sequence, what happens next? If the data tells us that you are genetically predisposed to certain diseases, that gives us two important pieces of information. First, you and your doctor will know about other symptoms that you should be vigilant in watching for. Second, it lets us know if there are any diet or lifestyle changes that you can make to prevent the onset of the disease.
Here is a specific example. If a woman has a family history of breast cancer, genotyping can let us know whether she has the BRCA 1 or BRCA 2 mutations. About one in five women with these mutations will never develop breast or ovarian cancer in her lifetime, but the other four will. Therefore, if the mutations are located, she will want to have regular mammograms to detect the cancer early.
Genotyping for Diet
If you’ve paid any attention to dietary news for the past 20 years, you probably know that there is no “one-size-fits-all” diet that will work for everyone. Every person’s metabolism and nutritional needs are unique. A really cool thing about genotyping is that it can help us to create a customized diet plan based on your genetic sequence. Here are some of the things that entails:
- Food Sensitivities: Certain foods might irritate you or impact your health and you don’t even realize it. Genotyping can tell you whether you are intolerant to lactose, caffeine and other food types.
- Macronutrients Just for You: Genotyping can tell us the specific ratio of fat, carbs and proteins your diet should include.
- To Supplement or Not to Supplement: Dietary supplements don’t work the same way for all people. Genotyping can tell us whether you should use supplements — or not!
Genotyping allows us to identify foods that your body will benefit the most from, and those you should avoid (or at least reduce, so you can enjoy them in moderation).