I got my DNA analysed to figure out what I should eat and how I should work out

Ramarko Sengupta January 18, 2017

Ever since I learnt that Aamir Khan achieved his ripped-to-shreds physique in Dangal with the help of nutrigenomics — the scientific study of the interaction between nutrition and genes — I’ve been stoked to try it.

To understand the exact interplay between DNA and nutrition and how learning about your genetic peculiarities could enable you to get to the ultimate level of health or fitness (as the priority may be), I signed up for a gene analysis by Gene Box. It is a startup that does DNA spit tests to help you figure out your genetic predisposition that determines your food tolerance and aversion, fitness activities that work best for you and your potential health risks. GeneSupport, GeneOmbio and XCode are some of the other companies offering similar services in India.

The genetic testing market is expected to touch $2.2 billion in 2017, according to Gene Box. “Very soon, most individuals would have experienced genetic assessment of some kind or another,” says Gene Box co-founder Shiraz Siddiqui.

He added that parents are getting gene testing done for children as young as seven or eight years so as to determine their nutritional and health needs, and their physical abilities.

Why get a DNA analysis done?

A DNA analysis arms you with information on common lifestyle conditions that you can prevent through nutritional, exercise and lifestyle modifications suited to your genotype. It also tells you what kind of physical and sporting activities your body is genetically predisposed to.

A DNA analysis arms you with information on common lifestyle conditions that you can prevent through nutritional, exercise and lifestyle modifications suited to your genotype  

The report will tell you what kind of diseases you are likely to get. It will help you understand the types of food best suited for your specific body type and those you should avoid. You will also learn about any vitamin, mineral and deficiencies you may have or are likely to develop and the necessary supplements that would suit you.

Gene Box draws up a diet chart and an exercise plan based on your needs and DNA structure. “We process the test data through our unique algorithms to study your genotype and develop customised food and fitness plans in line with your health goals,” said Siddiqui.

What do you have to do to get your DNA analysed?

Most gene labs prefer blood because saliva can get cross-contaminated with bacterial DNA, says nutritionist Ryan Fernando, whom Aamir Khan consulted to get the Dangal look. However, Gene Box uses saliva for testing.

You can select from analyses like Nutri Genomics, Fitness Genomics and Health Genomics at Gene Box. While sending in your saliva sample, you have to fill in a detailed form stating your food habits; a history of illnesses, if any; whether you drink/smoke and how much; the kind of physical activities you do and their frequency etc.

How much does it cost?

At Gene Box, it will cost you Rs 25,000 (plus taxes) to get a nutrition, fitness and health analysis done. A separate test in each of these categories will cost Rs 10,000. Depending on the level of detailing you want in the analysis, and where you get it done from, the cost may go up to nearly Rs 1 lakh.

At Gene Box, it will cost you Rs 25,000 (plus taxes) to get a nutrition, fitness and health analysis done  

How much time does it take?

Once you’ve sent in your saliva sample, it takes about six weeks for a detailed analysis report to come. This is then followed up by a consultation with a trained nutritionist.

A slice of my DNA

My DNA analysis revealed that I am supposed to be naturally good at any sort of physical activity requiring short bursts of energy, such as 100-metre sprints, power-lifts, martial arts and the like. My anaerobic capacity and my muscle flexibility are both “excellent”, as a result of which I can do high intensity exercises and can recover faster than most people.

This means that I can workout six days a week.

The analysis is pretty accurate because even if I’m going back to the gym after a long gap, I seem to be able to push myself and work out hard, where most other people would take time to get back to their regular exercise regime.

The analysis is pretty accurate because even if I’m going back to the gym after a long gap, I seem to be able to push myself and work out hard  

What came to me as a surprise, though, was that my body “always stands a chance to gain weight,” if I don’t watch out on calories. In all my 34 years, I have always been lean, and so have never quite watched my calorie intake.

The report also told me that I have to be careful as I could develop hypertension and heart disease.

If you’re tuned into your body, some of the things in the report may be predictable but some others may completely take you by surprise. That’s probably why there is a disclaimer when you sign up that “the information you are about to receive may have psychological consequences!”