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Consumer DNA testing has exploded in the last few years. More and more people are curious about their heritage and the family secrets their DNA holds.
We are now beginning to use DNA tests to learn more about our health, including genetic diseases we are at risk of and whether we might pass on certain conditions to our children.
But there’s a lot more that a DNA test can uncover beyond your ancestry and health risks.
Fitness and diet DNA testing is a new field that uses DNA test results to inform and personalize diet and fitness plans.
These tests are based on the yet to be completely proven theory that DNA can reveal your body’s optimal diet and fitness needs.
To be clear, there isn’t yet enough scientific research done on whether you can completely tailor a diet or fitness plan based solely on your DNA. This is why all of the tests below include more than DNA test results.
Regardless of which test you buy, it is important that you consult with your doctor, your nutritionist and/or your trainer before taking actions based solely on a DNA test result.
OK, with those caveats out of the way – let’s see what the state of the science CAN tell us.
Your DNA holds telltale clues that a lab can use to pinpoint your ancestry, trace your mother’s or father’s line, and even match you to unknown family members.
Companies like 23andMe can now use these genetic markers to approximate your risk of getting various genetic diseases.
A Diet and Fitness DNA test is just the latest way of using genetic markers to inform and guide your life.
But instead of checking DNA for ancestry information or health risks, DNA fitness and diet tests look at different DNA markers that are related to your metabolism and other medical conditions to guide your training and nutrition.
DNA fitness testing starts with the exact same process an ancestry or health test uses. You spit in a tube or take a cheek swab and send your DNA sample in to a lab for testing.
Some companies like DNAFit also accept raw data from other DNA testing websites such as 23andMe and MyHeritage.
The lab then tests your DNA for specific genetic variants.
If you have a variant associated with lactose intolerance, the report will tell you that.
If you have a variant associated with increased strength and endurance, the report might recommend a change in your workout routine.
And if your DNA shows that you metabolize certain types of foods better than others, the report will recommend a specific diet.
Here are some of the things you can learn from a DNA-based fitness and diet test:
As I mentioned before, be careful about what you decide to do based solely on these results.
The science on how DNA and diet/fitness are connected is still young.
Your report will contain a lot of useful information, but it may also include information that is wrong or misleading.
So before you completely overhaul your diet or workout plan, talk to an expert.
|Test Kit||Best For|
|DNAFit DNA Test Kit||Diet and Fitness planning
|Vitagene DNA Test Kit||Diet and Fitness planning
|Pathway Genomics FiT iQ™||Diet and Fitness planning
|Azumio DNA Test Kit||Nutrition & Diet Planning
|ORIG3N Genetic Home DNA Test Kit||Understanding your fitness potential
|Arivale DNA Test Kit||Losing Weight
|FitnessGenes||Budget Diet & Fitness Plan
DNAFit is one of the leaders in DNA-based fitness and diet testing. The company was launched in 2013 to provide personalized fitness and nutrition solutions based on DNA.
The Diet Fitness Pro 360 package is offered in collaboration with Helix, which is often described as the app store of DNA services.
Helix is a company that tests your DNA once through a process called exome sequencing. This is a highly accurate way of studying the DNA to find specific variants.
Then, they allow your sequenced DNA to be used in many different DNA tests – which means you only need to provide one sample to get a wealth of knowledge from it.
Helix’s approach to DNA testing is much more reliable than genotyping, a cheaper alternative used by most DNA testing companies.
Once Helix has your raw DNA data, they’ll send only the parts that DNAFit needs for their Diet Fitness Pro 360 service.
Fitness report: an explanation of how your genetics influence your workouts. Also includes information on your predisposition to certain injuries as well as recovery response.
Custom workout and diet plan: This includes DNA-based diet guidelines and a personalized training program that takes advantage of your fitness traits to optimize your workouts.
Nutrition report: A finer look at how your body interacts with various macro and micronutrients, including proteins, carbs, vitamins, saturated fat, caffeine, alcohol, and others.
Phone consultation: You get a complimentary half-hour consultation with an expert who’ll help you go through your results.
Vitagene’s health + ancestry test sounds a lot like the similarly named 23andMe test. But the similarities end there.
While the ancestry part is close to 23andMe’s ancestry test, the health part is very different.
Instead of genetic diseases, Vitagene helps you understand how your DNA influences your diet and fitness.
The company uses genotyping, which is faster and cheaper. But the results are not as reliable as those gotten from sequencing.
If you are looking for a budget diet and fitness DNA test, Vitagene is a good choice. The ancestry report is a nice bonus.
What You Get
Genetic diet traits: Over 30 nutritional traits including carbohydrate metabolism, fat metabolism, cholesterol, and blood pressure. These traits can help you refine your diet to achieve better results in areas like weight loss and overall health.
DNA diet menu: Personalized meals selected from over 700 recipes. The meal calorie counts and ingredients are tailored to your DNA profile.
Exercise report: Insights on how your body responds to different exercises, your body type (power vs. endurance), blood pressure and exercise and muscle cramps. The report recommends the best exercises for your particular body type and fitness traits. You also get personalized exercise plans.
Ancestry report: A breakdown of your ancestral regions plus a handy map showing your ethnic composition.
Pathway Genomics (formally known as Pathway OME) is a company that focuses on advanced personalized precision medicine.
The company provides genetic tests for weight loss, diet, and metabolism among other areas.
The FiTiQ testis designed to help customers improve overall health and wellness.
The report includes insights into how your body responds to different nutrients and exercises plus recommendations for how to optimize your diet and fitness.
The process works much the same way as that of any other DNA testing company. They will send you a swab kit that you then send back with a sample.
Results take 4-6 weeks.
Unlike other DNA tests that are more cautious about making weight loss promises, Pathway Genomics explicitly says that their recommended DNA-based diet will help you lose weight.
As I mentioned, be careful with such bold promises. Talk to a doctor before you decide to switch to a low-carb or low-fat diet.
Eating behavior traits: Explanations for traits like a sweet tooth, snacking, food desire, and satiety.
Food reactions: How your body reacts to different types of food including carbs, proteins, fats, caffeine, lactose, and alcohol among others. This can help you improve your diet to increase energy levels, sleep better and improve overall wellness.
Weight loss: How your DNA affects your metabolism and weight loss.
Personalized diet: The report provides a personalized diet that matches your genetic profile.
Exercise recommendations: DNA-based workout recommendations to optimize weight loss, muscle building, and athletic performance. Also includes insights to help you with endurance training, loss of body fat, and strength training.
• The report includes some generic information that you probably already know about yourself.
You also need to buy the Helix sequencing test to get your diet and workout report from Azumio.
If you have purchased a Helix Kit before, even if it is for another test, then you do not need to buy another one.
This product by Azumio focuses on optimizing nutrition and fitness. The report will tell you which foods you should eat and which workouts will be most effective for your fitness goals.
Azumiois a health and fitness company that uses computer vision and machine learning technology to help its customers improve their diet and fitness.
They are best known for their Calorie Mama app that needs to snap a photo of your food to do a calorie count.
This kit comes with a full year’s subscription to Calorie Mama.
When you order, Helix will send you a sample collection kit. Spit into the tube and send it back to Helix for full Exome Sequencing.
Results will be ready in 4-6 weeks.
Custom fitness and nutrition plans: Personalized plans based on your DNA profile. Includes recommendations on the carb, saturated fats, sugar, iron, and Omega-3.
Genetic predisposition to food intolerance: This includes tolerance to lactose, caffeine, sugary beverages, alcohol and gluten.
Genetic risk of injuries: Learn your predisposition to arthritis, Achilles injury and ACL injury among other types of injuries.
Note that you’ll need to download the Calorie Mama app to see these insights from your test. The test report is only accessible through the app.
You can make use of all the other app features using your 1-year subscription.
Orig3n is a biotechnology company that focuses on regenerative medicine to treat rare genetically inherited conditions affecting the liver, heart and the neural system.
They also provide DNA tests to help customers learn more about their bodies. They have packages for running performance, child development, behavior, nutrition, and beauty.
This particular one is for fitness.
They test for 27 genes that affect muscle strength, cardiac output, training response, exercise recovery, and other areas of fitness.
Their DNA fitness testing involves a simple swab. They’ll send you the swab kit after you complete your order.
Once you send the sample back, it takes about three weeks to get your results back. You can access your results via a link that will be included in the notification email.
They also have a free app where you can access your results.
This is a fitness-only test, so the report will only include insights into how your DNA affects your fitness.
The report consists of an explanation of specific areas they analyzed including metabolism, muscle recovery, strength, speed, endurance, joint health, and overall performance.
They report on a total of 27 genes includingSOD2 (cell repair), TRHR (lean body mass) and ADRB3 (energy output).
Unfortunately, the report does not provide detailed recommendations of what workouts are best suited for your DNA profile; just basic suggestions.
You’ll have to create your comprehensive workout plan based on the report.
Note that the report does not contain recommendations on what food to eat. For that, you’ll have to buy a separate nutrition package.
This package is focused on weight loss. If you are looking for DNA fitness testing to recommend the best exercises, this is not the best test for you.
The Arivale DNA test report will tell you the type of food your body responds to best.
As with other weight loss DNA tests, I advise caution. Talk to your doctor first before making a significant change to your diet.
You’ll have to buy a Helix test to get this package. If Helix has already sequenced your DNA, you can go ahead and order the package. There’s no need to get a new test.
Weight loss recommendations: these personalized suggestions are based on your DNA. The report will also tell you whether you’ll lose more weight on low fat or low carb diet.
Phone consultation: One on one consultation on the phone with a registered dietician.
30-day coaching: In addition to the phone consultation, you can keep chatting with the dietician for up to 30 days after the test results are out.
FitnessGenes is a company that uses DNA to help people get fitter and healthier.
The basic package includes DNA fitness testing plus a weeklong genetic workout plan. If you want longer workout and nutrition plans, you’ll have to buy their other packages.
They have a package for fitness, getting lean, weight loss, and muscle building.
They’ll send you a kit for collecting a saliva sample. Send it back to them in the prepaid box and wait 2-3 weeks for your results.
You can access your report in the private members’ area of their website.
They test for a total of 42 genes (which explains the fairly high price tag) associated with things like endurance, speed, power, recovery, alcohol metabolism, sleep, caffeine, overeating, and lactose intolerance.
You can see the complete list here.
Twenty-two personalized insights: Important insights into what your DNA says about your fitness and nutrition.
Thirty-two personalized actions: Actionable suggestions to help you get fitter and eat better.
In-depth gene analysis: You can read an analysis of every single gene they tested.
One week genetic workout plan: A complete workout plan to help you achieve your fitness goals. Longer premium plans are available.
Nutrition guide and recipes: Get to know how your body responds to different types of foods and nutrient. The report also includes recommended recipes based on your DNA nutritional analysis.
Most companies require that you provide a sample for DNA testing. But a few allow you to upload raw DNA data if you have already tested with another company like 23andMe or AncestryDNA.
Check the company’s requirements before you upload raw data. Some accept raw data only from specific companies.
Something else to keep in mind when uploading raw data: make sure you upload the right file. It will most likely be in a .txt format.
Do not upload your DNA report from another company (which will most likely be in a .pdf format). That’s just the summary. What you need is the unfiltered raw data.
|DNAFit||Offers SNP genotyping from saliva||Non –disclosure of data||Nutrition, Fitness||2 weeks||Accepted only from 23andme||4 Fitness Traits||45||5 years(2012)||Reports cover certain important traits. Well structured and easy to understand||Recommendations provided based on genetic information||Email, chat||Global||299$- 199$||Raw data cannot be downloaded||Scientific research backed by publicly available scientific literature; expert-curated||Easy to navigate, blogs, detailed product info, contact details|
|Vitagene||Offers SNP genotyping from saliva||Non –disclosure of data||Nutrition, Fitness||4-6 weeks||Accepted only from Health & Ancestry DNA Test||30 nutritional traits||N/A||4 years||Report includes a breakdown of your ancestry, as well as diet, exercise, and supplementation plans.||Recommendations provided based on genetic information||Email, chat||Global||$49-$149||Raw data can be downloaded||Scientific research backed by publicly available scientific literature; expert-curated||Easy to navigate, blogs, detailed product info, contact details|
|Pathway Genomics||Offers SNP genotyping from saliva||Non –disclosure of data||Nutrition and fitness, Skin report||2 weeks||Does not accept raw data from ancestry DNA companies||(Pathway Fit)Fitness Traits- 10|
(FIT IQ) Fitness Traits - 6
|65||10 years (2008)||Reports cover certain important traits. Well structured and easy to understand||Recommendations provided based on genetic information, personalized diet chart||Email, chat||Global||Pathway fit- 299$|
Fit IQ- 124$
|Raw data cannot be downloaded||Scientific research backed by publicly available scientific literature; expert-curated||Easy to navigate, blogs, detailed product info, contact details|
|Azumio||Offers SNP genotyping from saliva||Non –disclosure of data||Fitness and nutrition||6-8 weeks||Do not accept genetic data from outside sources.||N/A||30||7 years(2011)||Reports cover certain important fitness and nutritional traits. Well structured and easy to understand||Recommendations are based on population-wide studies.||Email, chat||Global||$34-$125||Raw data cannot be downloaded||Scientific research backed by publicly available scientific literature; expert-curated||Easy to navigate, blogs, detailed product info, contact details|
|ORIG3N||Offers SNP genotyping from cheek swab||Non –disclosure of data||Nutrition, Fitness||3 weeks||Do not accept genetic data from outside sources||27||N/A||4 years||Reports cover certain important genetic variants with insights and tips.||Recommendations provided based on genetic information||Email, chat||Global||Starts with $29||Raw data cannot be downloaded||Scientific research backed by publicly available scientific literature; expert-curated||Easy to navigate, blogs, detailed product info, contact details|
|Arivale||Offers SNP genotyping from saliva||Non –disclosure of data||Fitness, nutrition and Entertainment||4-6 weeks||Do not accept genetic data from outside sources||N/A||100||3 years(2015)||Reports cover certain important fitness and nutritional traits. Well structured and easy to understand||Recommendations provided based on DNA test results||Email, chat||Global||$99-$199||Raw data cannot be downloaded||Scientific research backed by publicly available scientific literature; expert-curated||Easy to navigate, blogs, detailed product info, contact details|
|FitnessGenes||Offers SNP genotyping from saliva||Non –disclosure of data||Genetic test + training for varying periods of time||2 weeks||Does not accept raw data from ancestry DNA companies||10-12 traits||40 ||4 years (2013||Reports cover certain important traits. Well structured and easy to understand||Recommendations provided based on genetic information||Email, chat||Global||Varies from 499$- 199$||Raw data cannot be downloaded||Scientific research backed by publicly available scientific literature; expert-curated||Easy to navigate, blogs, detailed product info, contact details
The whole idea of using DNA to recommend the best workout and diet plans is way ahead of where science currently is.
As a result, DNA reports are not always 100% accurate or reliable. Some of the insights included are just approximations, and others are just generalized ideas that apply to most people.
That’s why it is important to consult a doctor before taking any major action based on your DNA fitness testing results.
If you want to see just how confusing the tests can be, try testing with two or more companies.
They got very different pictures from each company with some aspects of the reports flat out to contradict each other.
To be sure, this is not an issue with DNA testing in general.
If you take an ancestry DNA test with different companies, the results will roughly be the same. What might be different is how they each have divided the world, and what they call various regions.
DNA fitness testing, on the other hand, varies wildly from one company to the other.
One report might tell you that you perform better at speed-focused sports activities while another says you are better suited to strength-based sports.
You might discover that you are a low-fat kind of person only for another test to tell you that reducing carbs is better for your metabolism.
Even tests that discover the same genes in your DNA might interpret them very differently.
The biggest issue, it seems, is the research that these companies rely on.
When it comes to ancestry testing, there is a lot of solid research on variants associated with different populations. That’s why your ancestry report doesn’t change much from one company to another.
There is also a lot of good research on genetically inherited diseases and the genes that cause them.
If you take 23andMe’s health test, you’ll discover you are at risk of roughly the same conditions that another DNA health screening will find.
But when it comes to fitness and diet testing, there is little proven research.
Many studies suggest there is a link between DNA and your fitness and diet, but we have yet to pin down the exact association between specific genes and your ideal sport or perfect weight loss diet.
Part of the reason is that there are so many other factors beyond genetics that influence weight loss, fitness, and overall health.
The available research is conflicting and in most cases, inconclusive. So diet and fitness reports, which rely on this research, are also often inconclusive.
Your report will contain some helpful insights. But it could also include unhelpful recommendations.
That’s why I keep emphasizing you work with an expert – a doctor, dietician, nutritionist or physical therapist –to modify your diet or workouts based on the report.
Even science itself can be a bit confusing when it comes to DNA-based diet and fitness tests. Again, the problem is conflicting and inconclusive studies.
But the general take for most experts is that the DNA diet and fitness testing is still an unproven ground. It has some benefits, but it’s unwise to rely only on a DNA test to inform your diet and exercise decisions.
Here are some of the main takeaways from various experts and studies.
You can get some useful information from a DNA diet or fitness test.
But don’t feel that you have to get a diet or fitness DNA test if you want to lose weight or get ripped.
Most of these tests tell you what you already know (workout more, eat more vegetables, avoid caffeine at night, etc.) or things that you can’t translate into practical changes.
If you do decide to get a DNA test, be careful how you integrate the recommendations into your lifestyle.
Some suggestions like taking yoga to improve joint health or eating more Omega-3 foods are harmless and even beneficial.
Others recommendations like switching to a low-carb diet to lose weight can be dangerous for your health if you are not careful.
For the major stuff, ask your doctor before doing anything.