Article at a Glance
- Health can be personalized down to the level of your genes using genomics-based personalized medicine.
- There are many easily accessible kits you can order online to get your genes analyzed.
- These tests lead to specifically personalized-to-you recommendations for diet, exercise, disease prevention, and sleeping habits.
Imagine a future where you walk around with a medical card which harbors information about your specific genetic makeup. You walk into a clinic, hand over your card, and get a personalized evaluation – down to the level of your genes. Advancements in the world of genetics are bringing this future closer at an incredible speed and we’re approaching a world where genomics-based personalized medicine is the standard [R].
Here we’ll give you the basics you need to understand to get started with genomics-based personalized medicine so you can be ahead of the game.
What is Genomics-Based Personalized Medicine?
As the name indicates, genomics-based personalized medicine uses information about a person’s genes to prevent, diagnose, and treat disease [R]. It’s the customization of lifestyle (diet, exercise, medication, sleep, stress) based on the study of a person’s genome. Like fingerprints, everyone’s genetic make-up is unique.
Genes are units within DNA that determine our characteristics – from the way we look to the way we respond to exercise and stress to what medications work best for us. Genomics refers to the study of all the genes that make up an individual, including the interaction of those genes with each other and with the environment [R]. The information that lies in our genetic makeup is crucial to define exactly who we are and how we function. Obtaining that information is vital for disease prevention, diagnosis, and treatment.
Simply informing individuals that behaviors such as following a healthy diet and exercising regularly can prevent disease hasn’t proven successful in encouraging worldwide healthy behavioral changes. In contrast, genomics-based personalized medicine can offer evidence-based personalized recommendations to maintain optimum health and may positively influence people’s behaviors [R, R].
How Do I Get My Genomic Information?
Recent advancements in research and technology make getting your genomic information very simple. Saliva kits designed for consumers help them easily access gene testing. You order a kit, spit in a tube (or use a cotton swab), send it off to a certified lab, and results are available shortly thereafter. Most kit providers also offer an analysis of your genetic make-up, giving you in-depth information about your genes, including personalized recommendations for exercise, diet, and other lifestyle regimens that best suit you.
These self-quantification kits can be ordered online and are a great way to get started with genomics-based personalized medicine either to help you know yourself at a different level, meet your wellness goals, or simply to push you to a healthier lifestyle. To ensure your genes are analyzed in high-quality labs, it’s important to choose kits that offer analysis at Clinical Laboratory Improvements Amendments (CLIA) certified labs. Some popular providers include 23andMe, DNA Fit, and ToolBox Genomics.
23andMe is the most popular and the largest genetic service available directly to consumers. They initially started offering direct-to-consumer ancestry kits and they then expanded to include health-related insights in their kits, too.
When you order a kit, you get a cotton swab with directions on how to take a saliva sample, which you will then send to a lab that will decode your DNA, analyze your genes, and send you a comprehensive report.
They offer two packages: An Ancestry kit and a Health & Ancestry kit. The Ancestry kit gives you information about what regions your ancestors came from through an ancestry composition report. It shows you which of the 1000+ regions your DNA is from and allows you to connect with people who share DNA with you [R].
The Health & Ancestry kit is more complete [R]. In addition to ancestry insights, you also get health-related information, including genetic disease predispositions, a wellness report that includes how you should sleep, ideal weight, ideal diet, and how often you should exercise, a traits report that explains how your DNA influences your facial features, taste, or smell, and a carrier report which helps identify whether one carries genes for a condition that could be passed on their offspring.
For more detailed insights and reports regarding diet and especially exercise, some companies, such as DNA Fit, offer the service of uploading your 23andMe genetic report to get more out of them.
DNAfit’s started out offering their genomics kits to elite athletes to help them achieve their full potential by figuring out their ideal diet and exercise regimen based on their genes. Now, they’re focused on all consumers who not only want to boost their performance but who want to make simple changes to improve their health and well-being.
With DNAfit, the procedure is quite simple. You order one of their kits, take a saliva swab, send it to a certified lab, and receive your results within 10 working days. They offer three kits: Diet Fit, Body Fit, and Health Fit.
Diet Fit gives a selection of in-depth and easily comprehensible genetic information to help you personalize your diet. It also comes with personalized meal plans and coaching by a personal dietician. Body Fit offers insights on diet as well as fitness. They use your genes to help optimize your workouts. In addition, you get genetically-guided training and meal plans along with a personal health coach. Finally, the Health Fit kit gives you all the insights included in the Diet and Body Fit packages, along with other wellness information including how you respond to stress and what your best sleep schedule is [R].
Toolbox Genomics focuses on five essential domains of health and wellness: lifestyle, nutrition, supplements, exercise, and further testing. Toolbox Genomics offers one genomics testing kit and four actionable plans: Empower, Thrive, Nourish, and RunDNA.
For example, the Health Action Plan assists in designing a weight management plan based on diet and genes. It provides insights on how your body functions and how to achieve a healthy weight. Another plan, called RunDNA, gives further insights on athletic performance. This plan makes recommendations based on the genes crucial for training, performance, and recovery [R].
Because genomics-based personalized medicine is still a new concept, there are some current limitations to it, namely the amount of scientific backing for the recommendations given based on genetic testing.
While some genetic information is well-understood and proven, like the genes involved in the predisposition for certain diseases like breast cancer, other genetics-related information isn’t as well-researched [R]. For example, how well your genes can define the preferred type of exercise for you is not well defined by science [R]. This is due to the complexity of genetics and the interplay of genes involved in certain traits.
Recently, though, there have been some studies exploring how different genes can be analyzed and applied to fitness. Researchers found that certain genes that predict fitness markers like VO2 max and endurance. There is also research on genes that may predict muscular strength, but at this point, data has been inconclusive. This means that there still may be a basis behind the recommendations provided by at-home genetic testing kits, but more research is needed [R].
Genetics is a growing field and progress is being made daily. This means that the reliability of genetic testing will continue to improve as researchers continue to study the effects and interplay of genetics on health.
Genomics-based personalized medicine is a powerful tool not only for disease prevention, diagnosis, and treatment but also for encouraging healthy behavior.
If you wish to discuss your genetic findings with a healthcare professional, please check out our directory of health and longevity clinics to find the right place to discuss your genes.
The information on this website has not been evaluated by the Food & Drug Administration or any other medical body. Information is provided for educational purposes. You should consult your doctor before acting on any content on this website.