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The Differences Between DNA Testing and Blood-Based Biomarker Testing

DNA results don't determine diet for weight-loss, research shows



When it comes to weight loss, it all comes down to diet, right? And diet is a very individual thing. A diet that works for one person could be completely ineffective for the next person. The long list of fad diets have people wondering: 'Which one is best for me?' There was some hope that certain types of tests, like DNA, hoped to answer that question bypassing the traditional thinking around diet and going straight to genetics to determine the best diet for the individual.


DNA testing is, in theory, is easy. You get a kit mailed to your home, a saliva sample goes into a test tube, you mail it back, get to see what your genetic information reveals about your body, and then match a diet to your genotype. Sounds promising enough. But what the latest research has shown is that matching a diet to a DNA profile doesn't work for most people.

A recent study published in the Journal of the American Medical Association by a group of researchers from Stanford University Medical School worked with 609 overweight adults between the ages of 18 and 50. The researchers conducted a 12-month study with the group randomly assigning healthy low-fat and healthy low-carbohydrate diets to the participants. Some diets matched the genotype of a person, others didn't. The goal was to determine if there was significant or measurable weight loss for individuals who were given the genotype-based diet.


This $8 million study is the most robust so far that analyzes whether certain genetic variants could determine the right diet based on DNA results. What this study showed was that there was no difference in weight-loss outcomes between subjects who ate a genotype-based diet and those who didn't.


This study has shown that genetics can't really explain why some diets work for some but not others. According to the researchers, “There was no significant difference in weight change among participants matched vs mismatched to their diet assignment.”

When approaching weight-loss, and diet specifically, it all starts with blood.


Running through your bloodstream are biomarkers that can provide information about one's overall health that can be measured and tracked, but more importantly, are actionable. DNA is the blueprint of an individual. You can think of it as a single image or picture, whereas biomarker blood-testing tells a story. You can actually have an influence on the outcome of that story.


Biomarkers in the blood are biological indicators or measurements of a condition or health state. Blood-based biomarker tests can provide insight into things like metabolism, nutrition, hormones, and so many other factors related to weight loss, fitness, and overall health. So when your blood is tested, you can consider these things holistically and plan effective strategies to make changes.


Despite this latest research, DNA testing remains incredibly important in many areas of medicine. For example, millions of women are now screened for the BRCA gene, which is the most common breast cancer gene mutation.  For women and their families, knowing whether they have the BRCA gene mutation can potentially help them prevent breast cancer by giving women and their doctors more options before cancer develops. Reasons such as this, DNA is an incredibly powerful tool in healthcare. And as science and technology continue to evolve, there still may be applications for nutrition or diet in the not-so-distant future.


But the most actionable information is going come from whole-blood testing. If the goal is to lose weight, and the route to weight loss involves finding the right diet, then measuring hormone levels, nutritional deficiencies, and metabolism function – in ways that are actionable – may be the most effective approach.


It all comes down to applying the right tool for the goal at hand. While DNA testing can provide all kinds of information about predisposition to certain states of health, like cancer gene mutations or even the likelihood of obesity, identifying the right diet requires a different tool. Now, more than ever, we have access to powerful science and technology to help us make the best decisions for our health and fitness, it just depends on what tool the job requires.

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