How can we tell you about your DNA from one little swab?

The 20,000+ genes that make up your genome hold countless clues to understanding the fundamental processes of human life. Ever since the completion of the Human Genome Project, our knowledge of how we are made has developed at an unprecedented rate. In our case, it opened a new realm of information about your individual fitness and nutrition needs, easily accessible from one little mouth swab.

 

Nearly every cell in your body contains a full copy of your entire genetic code (red blood cells, sperm cells and egg cells are the exceptions). Different cells make use of that genetic code in their own special way, but the base code remains the same. Therefore, we can look at cells taken from your cheek, and read the code for genes that affect exercise, nutrition and performance.

 

Your DNAFit journey starts when you provide your sample. In the lab, your DNA is purified and amplified through a process named the polymerase chain reaction (PCR). This turns the tiny amount of DNA from your sample into enough to analyse, making it easier to read and produce your results from.

 

When we analyse your sample, we are looking for variants in specific genes related to fitness and nutrition. Genes are made of long chains of repeating sub-units called nucleotides, hundreds to thousands of which can make up a single gene. The sequence these nucleotides are in is very important – it determines the gene’s function.

 

More often than not, the positions in the sequence are exactly the same between people -on average, humans are 99.5% genetically identical. However, at some key positions, the nucleotides can be in different forms, and this is what SNP stands for – Single Nucleotide Polymorphism. These small changes can cause significant differences in the overall function of the gene, and it’s these differences that we look at to create your DNAFit reports.

 

If these technical terms are all a bit too much, think of SNPs like words, and genes like sentences. Changing just one key word in a sentence can give the sentence a very different overall meaning!

 

Thanks to initiatives like the Human Genome Project and ongoing genetic research, we know the typical sequence of human genes, and which variations in genes are the most common. A large body of genome wide association studies (GWAS) provide the data that identifies certain genetic variants as being associated with certain traits. This is how we know things like sprinters being more likely to carry functional copies of ACTN3, a gene that codes for a protein in fast-twitch muscle fibres. Follow up studies on identified genes then tell us a lot more about how they work, and how we can manipulate our environment to move towards our goals more quickly and easily.

 

SNPs are only included in our reports if they are scientifically backed by research from a minimum of 3 peer-reviewed studies in humans, showing a consensus of effect, and that effect must be modifiable i.e. if you carry a gene that makes you more likely to gain weight from carbohydrates, you can reduce your carbohydrate intake to manage your weight more effectively.

 

 

We look for variations like this in 45 genes related to fitness and nutrition, to report on traits such as power-endurance response, aerobic trainability, injury risk, carbohydrate and fat sensitivity, caffeine sensitivity and more. Having this information allows you to align your training and diet with what you learn from your genes… all it takes to get started is one little swab.

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