The Wellness DNA Test: What You Need to Know

Ever wondered why a particular exercise or diet your friend raves about just doesn’t do the trick for you? The answer could be genetic. At Irish Life Health, we recently partnered with the team at DNAfit, a company on the cutting edge of wellness genetics. Through an analysis of a DNA swab, their technology can tell you the best type of exercise and nutrition for your body based on your unique genetic make-up. We spoke to Andrew Steele, a former Olympic athlete who, having experienced the benefits of the science first-hand, is now Head of Product at DNAfit.

How it Works 

The process is straightforward and totally painless. A kit is sent in the post, which you then use to take a swab of saliva from the inside of your cheek. You then post it back and DNAfit’s cutting-edge, accredited labs will analyse it. “From that swab, we can work out a number of genetic factors that affect your wellness,” Andrew explains, “things like how your DNA interacts with common exercise, nutrition, stress and sleep habits.” Your results can be accessed online through your personal account after ten days, along with a personalised program. You’ll also get one-to-one access to a team of experts, from nutritionists to scientists who will help you understand your results.

How Your DNA Can Impact You

Woman outside enjoying a coffee while on her phone

No two people are the same, so it makes sense that what are considered average nutritional or exercise guidelines don’t always work for everyone.

Take caffeine for example. Are you one of those people who can sip away on espresso all day and still feel good? Or does a second cup of coffee make you feel jittery and uncomfortable? “Interestingly, there’s a very strong genetic factor at play in how we metabolise caffeine,” Andrew explains. “There’s a gene called CYP1A2 and, depending on the version of this gene you have, you’re either classed as a fast metaboliser of caffeine or a slow metaboliser of caffeine.”

If you happen to be a slow metaboliser of caffeine, then even following the average guidelines for caffeine consumption can increase your risk of things like cardiovascular disease. “A single gene in caffeine’s case can have a really strong impact on what a simple cup of coffee means to you as an individual.” Apply that same theory to other foods and you’ve got a lot of powerful knowledge to help you make the best choices for your body.

It’s Not Just for Athletes

Man checking his progress on watch after run

While the science has been used by many top athletes to benefit their performance, it can benefit anyone – especially someone just starting out on their wellness journey.

“If we know a little bit more about our genetic profile we can get the best out of ourselves,” Andrew explains. “We published the world’s first genetically guided study in 2016, where we actually showed that those who followed the genetically matched structure in their exercise had almost threefold improvement in their performances, compared to those who were genetically mismatched.”

The test also analyses factors like nutrition, sleep and stress. “On the nutrition side we have a lot of factors around your response to carbs, fats, micronutrients and vitamins,” Andrew notes. “We also look at the genetic component behind your overall stress resilience and your natural body clock, and how your genetics might affect your sleep quality.” The test results also give you an understanding of how your overall genetic profile influences your risk of obesity, as well as insights on your bone mineral density.

No Bad News

Andrew stresses that this is not a scary medical test. “We do not look at anything which has a serious medical consequence and there’s no diagnostic information about clinical categories. What that means is that there’s no bad news in this test. There’s only information which will help you to make a lifestyle, nutrition or stress management change, which would support or cancel out any elevated risk or reduced risk,” he notes. “We only report on something a user can do something about to change a potential outcome.”

If you’re interested in taking the test, Irish Life Health members can now avail of a reduced rate. You can find out more about the Wellness DNA Test here.