Can DNA tests really help you take charge of your health? Tammy Jacks gets the low-down…
In 2007, molecular biologist Dr Daniel Meyersfeld founded DNAlysis Biotechnology to make personalised healthcare more accessible to the public, with DNA testing offered by the company’s lab.
How many of us have felt defeated, not seeing results after following a diet that worked for a friend, or trying an exercise regime that saw the kilos drop off a colleague at work, but not for you? Wouldn’t it be incredible to know how you’d likely react to certain medications ahead of time, and, crucially, if you should be taking more precaution in your lifestyle choices because you’re at higher risk of developing type 2 diabetes, Alzheimer’s, or cancer? Thanks to advances in human genomics, we no longer have to wonder.
A person’s genetic make-up sheds light on so much, from what exercise they’d benefit from to their health status, or risk of chronic diseases, says Daniel. He also believes that diet, exercise and the impact of the environment on our health should never be underestimated – each person will react differently to these factors, he explains, based on their unique genetics, and that’s where personalised healthcare in the form of DNA testing comes in. “DNA tests are also a very valuable tool for doctors and patients, allowing treatment to be more precise, predictable and preventative.”
Daniel’s company has devised a variety of DNA tests, with data analysed by DNAlysis’s labs. The company’s small but dedicated Joburg team constantly researches new genes to help refine their DNA-test reports to customers.
Here, we look at four of the tests DNAlysis offers, and what they test for.
1 DNA Health
It’s standard protocol for doctors to listen to your heart and lungs, check your blood pressure, temperature, and sometimes your height and weight at the start of a visit. The DNA Health test is designed to fill in the gaps, to give doctors a clearer picture of what’s going on inside your body. Although it won’t diagnose a specific condition, the test will show whether you’re at risk for developing certain types of chronic diseases, such as type 2 diabetes.
What does it test? DNA Health looks at your bone health, oxidative stress, insulin sensitivity, inflammation, detoxification, lipid metabolism (how the body breaks down fat) and methylation – which is the process linked to how fast DNA strands repair themselves. All these metabolic processes play a role in your overall health and could show which health problems you’re more susceptible to developing later on. Good news is, with the right lifestyle interventions (like the correct diet and exercise plan), many of these conditions can actually be prevented or managed.
What does it cost? R3 180
2 DNA Diet
Should you be following the trendy high-fat, low-carb diet friends are on? Or maybe you’re considering a detox, but want to know how your body will respond? The DNA Diet test was developed to help you pinpoint your own dietary needs. Daniel believes that, although most people should be following a nutrient-dense eating plan packed with plenty of fruits and veg, each person metabolises macronutrients – fats, carbohydrates and proteins – differently. So, there’s really no use in a ‘one-size-fits-all’ approach to dieting.
What does it test? Based on your scores, DNA Diet will help your dietician or other specialist determine whether you should be following a low-fat, low-carb, or Mediterranean-type diet that’s rich in healthy fats, wholegrains, oily fish and vegetables. Certain DNA patterns also reveal whether you should be doing high- or low-intensity exercise, and what your response to carbohydrates and different types of fats is. Going beyond diet and exercise, the test also looks at certain lifestyle and behavioural factors that could affect your weight, such as having a sweet tooth, and whether you’re more prone to snacking.
What does it cost? R1 890
3 DNA Oestrogen
This targeted test is specifically for those who have a family history of ovarian or breast cancer, or another oestrogen-dominant disorder with symptoms like weight gain, fatigue, insomnia, PMS, or menstrual problems. Studies have shown that prolonged exposure to oestrogen is a strong risk factor for certain types of cancer.
What does it test? DNA Oestrogen looks at how your body metabolises oestrogen and what your risk factors are. It can also tell you if it’s best for you to avoid oral contraceptives or hormone replacement therapy (HRT). The results will help your medical practitioner prescribe interventions that could reduce your overall risk of developing oestrogen-related cancers.
What does it cost? R2 060
Regarded as one of the most reliable tests for medication response, this test looks at how well or poorly your body will respond to specific meds.
What does it test? The lab analyses 62 genetic variations within your unique DNA sequence to help identify how you might respond to over 150 different medications, which includes most anti-inflammatories, and cardiovascular and pain medicines on the market, as well as psychiatry medications, such as more commonly prescribed antidepressants. “This test is useful for preventing possible adverse reactions to medicines and could even save a life,” says Daniel. “For example, some might be sensitive to a pain reliever like codeine, and this test will pick that up.”
What does it cost? R3 500
How a kit works
Visit the DNAlysis website, select the nearest accredited healthcare specialist form their list and contact this specialist to discuss which tests to take. Then set up a time with the specialist to have your DNA sample taken. Make a note of these three steps:
Step 1: Avoid drinking or eating for an hour before the DNA sample is taken.
Step 2: Take a simple DNA sample by rubbing the provided swab on the inside of your cheek for 30 seconds.
Step 3: Your specialist will send your sample off to the DNAlysis Biotechnology lab, where technicians analyse it, sending a report back to the specialist in two weeks. The specialist will discuss the findings with you in a private consultation, or over Skype (note, the costs for the initial and follow-up consultations aren’t included in the DNA test fee).