How Do DNA Diets Work?
About 70% of American adults are overweight, and the diet industry is thriving. One of the most recent diet crazes is DNA diets. But how do these genetics-based diets work, and how effective are they?
DNA diets work by identifying and analyzing an individual’s genetics and then creating a diet plan tailored to meet their specific nutritional needs. These types of DNA-based diets are designed to help individuals discover which kind of nutrition plan is most effective based on their genetics.
This article will explore what people need to stay healthy, how DNA diets work, how effective these diets can be, and how much weight you could lose while on a DNA diet. Let’s get started!
What Do People Need to Stay Healthy?
Before you can fully understand how DNA-based diets work, you must first grasp essential nutrition basics. Human beings require a specific set of components to enjoy a healthy life, and ignoring any of these aspects is bound to result in illness, weight gain, and a lack of energy.
Every living person requires at least six things to stay healthy and alive. Besides shelter, oxygen, and sleep, humans need:
When these components are lacking or imbalanced, you may experience a wide variety of unpleasant symptoms and sensations. Nutritional deficiencies can make you feel weak, dizzy, and depressed. Dehydration can strain your liver and kidneys, allowing toxins to build up in your body.
The best way to stay healthy is to consume the recommended amounts of vitamins, minerals, proteins, carbohydrates, and fats. If you choose to wash these down with plenty of water, you’ll begin experiencing the life-changing benefits of proper hydration and excellent nutrition.
A typical, healthy person can survive for several days without food. But nobody can withstand a week without water. After only three days without water or moisture, the body’s major organs begin to shut down. As such, it’s imperative to drink plenty of clean water every day.
Waste management is one of the primary reasons why water is such a necessary aspect of human survival. Our bodies digest the foods we consume, breaking them down into usable components. But for every vitamin, mineral, or bit of protein, there’s also a reasonable amount of waste.
The bits of food our bodies can’t digest typically move on to the intestinal tract and, eventually, exit our bodies via one of two avenues. Solid waste, or feces, is primarily composed of indigestible cellulose and excess protein. However, it also contains harmful toxins.
Our kidneys and liver help filter toxins from our blood and waste to keep our bodies clean and healthy. Without adequate hydration, these major organs simply cannot keep up with the body’s natural detoxification system. The result is an unhealthy, unhappy body.
The cells in your body aren’t immortal. If they were, you’d never age, become injured, or grow hair. Dead cells are just as integral to a healthy life as live ones, and it’s estimated that your entire body replaces its cellular self every seven to ten years.
That means that the oldest microscopic parts of your body are the same age as elementary school students. Because cells age, weaken, and slough away, they need constant replacements to ensure that the body remains healthy. But without vitamins, this process simply wouldn’t be able to occur.
Human bodies require about a dozen different types of vitamins. Most of these nutrients are absorbed into the bloodstream via food, but some can be a little more difficult to consume. Vitamin D, for example, is typically found in sunlight and absorbed through the skin.
Because excess sun exposure can also raise the chance of developing melanoma, many people avoid sunlight as often as possible. This can lead to a Vitamin D deficiency, which is why many food products (including milk) have Vitamin D added to them. Of course, vitamins alone won’t sustain a person.
Minerals perform just about the same job as vitamins. They’re essential to proper health and nutrition. A diet that is low in minerals can be hazardous. Minute amounts of digestible minerals help to ensure that our:
- Heart beats correctly
- Brains perceive nerve signals
- Bones and teeth grow strong
- Muscles repair themselves
- Bodies are properly hydrated
Without a mineral-rich diet, our bodies suffer. Calcium and potassium are two crucial minerals that are essential to human life. Without calcium, bones would be weak and brittle. They wouldn’t be able to support the weight of our muscles, skin, or organs.
Similarly, an individual with a low-potassium diet might experience an irregular heartbeat. Potassium is also a crucial component of the excretory system. Without it, cells trap waste products and refuse to accept useful nutrients.
But while water, vitamins, and minerals are all imperative components, protein may be just as essential. After all, proteins consist of amino acids—the building blocks of human, carbon-based life.
Our bodies wouldn’t be able to exist without amino acids. These tiny compounds form proteins, and proteins play an essential role in muscle repair, immunity, and internal fluid balance. Without them, the human body simply wouldn’t be able to grow and flourish.
Bodybuilders and athletes rely on consistent protein consumption to help build, strengthen, and repair their muscles. Proteins are also responsible for moving nutrients around the body, allowing them to arrive safely at their intended destinations.
However, while our bodies might be able to sustain themselves for a short period thanks to adequate hydration, vitamin and mineral intake, and protein consumption, we’d have virtually zero energy without carbohydrates.
Though there are tons of low-carb diets out there, it’s crucial to remember that carbohydrates are one of the primary sources of energy for mammals, including humans. Some carbohydrates also contain a reasonable amount of vitamins and minerals, which may make them more attractive to individuals hoping to improve their diet and overall health.
Our digestive systems uniquely handle carbohydrates. They take these complex molecules and convert them into easy-to-handle glucose chains. The body then utilizes this sugary glucose for energy. If an individual is inactive or sedentary, the body may store this unused energy as fat. Consequently, many may choose to avoid carbohydrates.
However, it’s important to remember that whole grains and unprocessed carbs provide our bodies with an abundance of benefits. Low-carb diets tend to be reasonably safe, but no-carb diets can be dangerous. The same can be said of no-fat fads.
As with carbohydrates, fats are often seen as something to avoid rather than something to embrace. While it is true that proper nutrition involves limiting access to oils and fats, some types of fats can actually be beneficial rather than detrimental.
Now, you may have heard a little bit about the difference between “good” fats and “bad” fats. Let’s explore this topic for a moment and discuss what qualities make some types of fat more attractive than others. Primarily, the most important thing you should remember is the difference between unsaturated and saturated fats.
Saturated fats found in red meats and butter tend to be thick, viscous compounds that easily block arteries and cause significant health problems. Unsaturated fats, like those found in avocados and vegetable oils, are thinner and slightly more manageable for your body to process. These two types of fats have varying effects on an individual’s cholesterol.
Notably, saturated and trans fats tend to raise low-density lipoprotein levels. This is often referred to as the “bad” type of cholesterol. Conversely, unsaturated fats can actually increase the other kind of lipoprotein or “good” cholesterol.
Fats play an essential role in keeping us alive and healthy, so altogether avoiding them can be disastrous. Rather than cutting out all fats from your diet, it’s a far better idea to make the conscious decision to consume foods with unsaturated fats. Your body just may thank you.
What Are DNA Diets?
Now that you’re familiar with the necessary dietary components for human life, it’s time to talk about DNA diets. But you can’t fully understand DNA diets without also having a basic grasp on genetics.
Every part of your body is an expression of a specific section of code “written” in your DNA. A person’s hair color, height, and lifelong allergy to shellfish are all predetermined by your genetics. This process of instruction-directed cellular development is generally referred to as gene expression.
There are about 7.8 billion people in the world. The genetic differentiation among this massive population is only 0.01%. But within this tiny percentage lies a great deal of information. No two people are genetically identical, except for identical twins formed from a single fertilized ovum.
This minute variation is responsible for the physiological differences among humans. It can also affect a person’s chances of getting sick or developing a specific type of disease. For example, sickle cell anemia affects certain groups or populations more significantly than others, including African-Americans.
The more that geneticists attempt to understand and label specific genes throughout various populations, the more capable the medical and healthcare industry will become in treating and preventing illness and disease.
Genetic mapping allows medical professionals and geneticists to identify known gene markers. This information will enable them to identify potentially harmful inherited mutations and confirm shared hereditary diseases and conditions.
DNA diets seek to offer dieters the perfect, genetically-appropriate nutrition plan based on their specific genetic information. If you happen to show genetic markers commonly associated with diabetes or obesity, you may be recommended a low-fat or low-carb diet.
Similarly, dieters who exhibit the genetic marker for inherited anemia might receive an iron-rich, protein-friendly diet plan for a DNA diet company. In nearly all cases, DNA diets collect a client’s genetic sample, process and analyze it, and then use shared information concerning genetic markers to recommend a specific set of foods.
How Is DNA Collected?
Most DNA diet companies collect their client’s DNA from a safe distance by mailing them a DIY kit. Participants are often given a set of instructions, a cotton swab, and a sterile plastic container. They may be asked to swab the inside of their mouth and place the used swab inside the sterile container, then mail the completed kit to a testing lab for processing.
While genetic information can also be collected from blood and urine samples, most companies prefer the far-less-messy swab route. Consequently, DNA testing for dieters is painless and straightforward. Unfortunately, weight loss and improved fitness might not be quite so easy.
How Effective Are DNA Diets?
The effectiveness of any given DNA diet is bound to vary. Several factors influence a diet’s effectiveness, and nearly all weight-loss-focused diets benefit from the following:
- Moderate exercise
- Proper sleep
- Low stress
- Whole foods and stellar nutrition
People might feel more motivated to make healthy lifestyle choices if they’re aware they carry a “carb friendly” or “fat-saving” set of genes. However, a person’s genotype doesn’t instantly make them more substantial or leaner.
When it comes to losing weight and getting fit, our choices are far more critical and impactful than our genotypes. Let’s take a moment to explore a handful of activities that promote healthy weight loss and improved physical fitness.
Getting Enough Exercise
Staying active can do wonders for your health. There are potentially hundreds of benefits of adequate exercise. Those who find time in their schedules to exercise each day can enjoy a lowered risk of certain types of cancers and heart disease. Fitness enthusiasts are also more likely to feel happier and look slimmer.
Exercise can also help you fall asleep more easily at the end of the day and keep your bones and muscles healthy as you age. Because physician activity has such a consistently positive effect, it’s one of the most recommended weight-loss tactics.
Individuals with painful spinal or joint conditions may struggle to perform high-intensity or moderate-intensity exercises. However, that doesn’t mean that you can’t work out if you have arthritis. Water aerobics reduces strain on the muscles and bones while allowing the body to reap all of the benefits of regular exercise.
Are you getting at least eight hours of uninterrupted sleep each night? If not, there’s a good chance that your body can gain weight and hold onto fat. While it might seem strange, your sleep schedules can influence your ability to lose or gain weight.
Ensuring that you get a healthy and consistent amount of high-quality sleep can help prevent dramatic weight gain. And as with exercise, adequate sleep can reduce your risk of developing a wide range of diseases, conditions, and illnesses. Your heart and brain both benefit immensely from regular rest.
To put it another way, the average human being can survive for ten days without food before suffering dramatic and debilitating effects. The same is true of sleep. Consequently, a healthy amount of sleep is just as significant as a nutritious diet when it comes to staying alive.
Life is stressful, and unfortunately, this means that life can also cause you to gain weight. When we experience anger, frustration, fear, or despair, our bodies launch into overdrive. Humans instinctively react to stressful situations in one of two ways. They either fight or fly.
In our prehistoric past, this mechanism allowed us to either overcome or escape life-threatening obstacles. You won’t find modern humans fending-off Pleistocene-era predators or escaping from hungry sabretooth tigers, but this inherited way of dealing with stress continues to exist and manifest itself in a variety of ways.
One of the most notable side effects of excess stress is cortisol production. This hormone traps fat around the body, leading to weight gain. While this can be fantastically frustrating, especially after intensive exercise or dieting, it’s also a vicious cycle. The more upset you feel about your stress, the more stress you end up generating.
Daily meditation or weekly yoga routines can help you practice stress-relief and lower your cortisol levels. You may also find that mindfulness exercises help you find a sense of peace and inner relaxation that other methods do not.
Either way, it’s essential to let go of stress if you’re ready to embrace improved health and fitness. It’s also vital to eat well and eat often.
There’s a reason why we mentioned dietary requirements at the beginning of this article. Without these essential components, a person would begin to suffer the effects of malnutrition, dehydration, and anemia. They’d likely become severely ill and require hospitalization.
Extreme diets that massively restrict a person’s range of potential nutrients are dangerous for this reason. Rather than subscribing to a low-carb, low-fat, keto, paleo, or detox diet, you could decide to eat moderate amounts of organic, whole foods.
Unprocessed vegetables, whole grains, fish, and poultry are all rich in necessary vitamins, nutrients, proteins, carbohydrates, and fats. Adding small amounts of nuts, legumes, and lean beef cuts can ensure that you get all of the micronutrients your body needs to stay healthy and strong.
If you’re unable or unwilling to consume a variety of tasty (yet potentially expensive) whole foods, you can always supplement your current diet with easily digestible multivitamins and supplements. However, raw or lightly cooked meals are still the better option. It’s also crucial to avoid sugar, mainly processed sugars like high-fructose corn syrup.
Avoiding Refined Sugar
Sugar can be a highly addictive substance that leads to significant weight gain. Sweet foods and treats can rot the enamel from your teeth, damage your liver, put you at higher risk for heart disease, and even contribute to the onset of diabetes. Somewhat surprisingly, refined and unrefined sugars are present in everything from bread and apples to chocolate bars and milk.
Avoiding sugar completely can feel nearly impossible, and you may be fighting a losing battle. After all, it’s a great idea to incorporate more fresh fruit into your diet, and most fruit contains a lot of sugar. The difference between suffering from sugar and benefiting from it comes down to choosing unrefined sources of the sweet stuff.
Processed foods are often nutritionally deficient, and they may contain unhealthy fats, a ton of salt, or excess amounts of refined sugars. Fresh, whole foods can still be sweet, but they don’t put a significant strain on the body as processed foods do. When your organs can function more effectively, you naturally feel more energetic, calm, and capable.
Consequently, it’s important to avoid refined sugar, eat healthy whole foods, and help your body process all of this by staying hydrated.
Drinking plenty of water throughout the day can help your body stay in tip-top condition. Your liver, kidneys, digestive system, brain, skin, eyes, and heart, can all benefit from improved daily hydration. In fact, drinking water may improve your mood and ability to focus.
But dieters are often surprised to learn that increased water intake may also help them lose weight. It’s a calorie-free beverage that’s particularly satisfying on a hot day or after an intense bout of exercise. Water fills our stomachs, helps flush toxins from our bodies, and ensures that our skin is plump and healthy.
Try replacing your evening beer, soda, or juice with a refreshing glass of water. You may find that you enjoy the way water makes you feel, and your body is sure to enjoy its cleansing, rejuvenating properties. If you’re still on the fence about staying adequately hydrated with lots of fresh water, take a moment to think about your vascular system.
Right now, your heart is pumping gallons of blood throughout your body. If it suddenly ceased pumping, you’d experience a potentially fatal cardiac arrest. Our bodies depend on rapid and consistent blood flow in order to maintain order, function, and life. But the blood wouldn’t be able to effectively and efficiently travel throughout our bodies if it wasn’t primarily composed of water.
Consistency Is Key
All of the above activities are great ways to lose weight and become a fitter, healthier you. However, they’re not one-off activities that you can choose to engage in every now-and-again. To experience legitimate results, you’ll need to practice consistency.
It’s fine to have the occasional “cheat day” or take a little time between workouts to let your body rest and heal. However, when you begin making more excuses for why you shouldn’t drink water, work out, or meditate, you also actively allow yourself to fail your diet plan. It’s an easy trap to fall into, and the only way around it is through it.
Adopting a new diet and exercise routine is a challenge, no matter how old you are or how physically fit you currently feel. A change in lifestyle habits often takes time, and the process can be stressful. However, repetition, patience, and time are all healing factors that can help you commit to real, significant change.
There may be days when you feel like giving up on your nutrition, exercise, and mental health. This is normal, even if it is discouraging. Confiding in friends and family members while you transition into healthier habits can help you feel supported, emotionally connected, and grounded.
Can DNA Diets Help You Lose Weight?
Some people may lose weight while attempting a DNA diet. However, because results vary widely among dieters who try a DNA-based plan, it’s not a highly-recommended weight loss solution.
However, there are several things you can do to lose weight at a healthy pace while building muscles and improving your overall fitness. For example, you could choose to:
- Commit to moderate weekly exercise
- Consume less sugar
- Keep yourself hydrated
- Consume a variety of whole foods
- Consistently practice the above activities
Still, results will vary from person to person. Consulting with a nutritionist is often far more helpful than seeking a geneticist’s help when you’re trying to lose weight and gain muscle mass.
You could also choose to work with a personal trainer to target specific areas you’d like to improve. Even so, the vast majority of the adult population would likely benefit from practicing the activities listed above.
Healthy human bodies require a specific set of components to grow, repair themselves, and thrive. Without water, vitamins, minerals, proteins, carbohydrates, and fats, we simply wouldn’t be able to survive. Still, more diets function by restricting access to at least one of these essential dietary ingredients.
The DNA diet works by having a participant submit their DNA to a processing center or laboratory. Their genomic information is sequenced and analyzed by any number of technicians or company personnel, and this data is then used to help identify potential dietary pitfalls.
A DNA diet company may use an individual’s genetic profile to create a specific nutrition plan or set of dietary guidelines. While the premise of this type of person-specific diet is incredibly exciting, the DNA diet has not proven itself to be an effective form of weight loss. There is little proof to support the idea that DNA diets are helpful or that they can improve an individual’s overall health.
Richard A. Lehman, LMT, CSC
- Centers for Disease Control and Prevention: Data & Statistics on Sickle Cell Disease
- Centers for Disease Control and Prevention: Obesity and Overweight
- Harvard Chan School: Carbohydrates and Blood Sugar
- Harvard Health Publishing: The sweet danger of sugar
- Healthline: Good Fats, Bad Fats, and Heart Disease
- Healthline: Nutritional Deficiencies (Malnutrition)
- Mayo Clinic: Nutrition and healthy eating
- MedicalNewsToday: Fifteen benefits of drinking water
- MedicalNewsToday: How long you can live without water
- Medium: Science Monday: If Our Cells Replace Themselves, Why Do We Have Lifelong Scars?
- Medline Plus: Amino acids
- Medline Plus: Benefits of Exercise
- National Center for Biotechnology Information: The Characterization of Feces and Urine: A Review of the Literature to Inform Advanced Treatment Technology
- National Human Genome Research Institute: Gene Expression
- National Human Genome Research Institute: Genetic Mapping Fact Sheet
- ScientificAmerican: Personalized Nutrition: The Latest on DNA-Based Diets
- org: A Good Night’s Sleep Can Help You Maintain A Healthy Weight
- WebMD: Can Stress Cause Weight Gain?
- Wikipedia: Blood
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