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Ever since I did a DNA test with 23andme a few years back, I’ve been fascinated about how DNA can help us determine better diets. Perhaps it can even help us choose sports and careers we are better suited for. We are starting to see some interesting products emerge in that area. DNAfit and Orig3N have products already. 23andme announced recently that they’re doing a study of 100,000 people to better understand the correlation between diet and DNA.

My curiosity piqued, I ordered an analysis from DNAfit which tells me which nutrition plan is best suited to my DNA. The results are interesting! Below, I’m going to summarize some aspects that could be relevant to others too…

Eat food that our digestive system has evolved to accept

As the picture below shows, the human body has evolved over the past 2 million years to digest fruits, vegetables and meat well. Rice, wheat and other grains came into the picture 10,000 years back – it is still hotly debated how well humans can digest these. Prepared foods, soda and fast foods come with plenty of chemical and artificial flavors. They have been around only the past 50 years. It is well known that the body is not able to digest these as well as fruits, vegetables and meat.

Obviously, a fruit, vegetable and meat diet may be the best for our bodies.

Image result for human diets evolution paleo

 

Lactose intolerance

Around 8000 years back, when cows and goats were getting domesticated, humans started consuming milk in Europe. A genetic mutation appeared which made a percentage of humans tolerant to milk. However, only 35% of the world population has this mutation, and they are largely Caucasian in ancestry. Others can still digest milk, but they aren’t totally comfortable with it. Turns out I am lactose intolerant based on my DNA test – maybe that’s why I avoid drinking tons of milk, unlike my other family members.

Sensitivity to carbs, fat, sodium, antioxidants, vitamin B, vitamin D

By analyzing 23andme results, DNAfit gave recommendations on sensitivity to carbs, fat, sodium, antioxidants, vitamin B and vitamin D. Since we are still in early days of understanding some of these aspects, I took what DNAfit said with a pinch of salt (no pun intended!) and carefully researched the findings they presented. I felt they could draw fewer sweeping conclusions since so much information is still unknown. But the data they do show is backed by good scientific literature. I’ve shown below a typical report they give for one of the areas.

 

Diet recommendations based on the entire report

The folks at DNAfit then give a summary and diet recommendation. See the picture below.

I foresee a day 5 years from now where we understand a lot more about how DNA impacts our food choices (maybe after the 23andme 100,000 person study?)… I also see us using this information to customize our meals. We already have apps for Sally the Salad Robot where people can mass customize their Sally salads at their own pace on their smartphones. I can see a next-generation customization feature using people’s 23andme data and making recommendations on salads well suited for their DNA. For example, if I asked Sally the Salad Robot to recommend a salad that is healthy for me, she would suggest a salad with plenty of blueberries and kale (high on antioxidants), not much cheese (due to the lactose intolerance and salt sensitivity) and which has mushrooms (for vitamin D) – based on the picture above. All this may sound very futuristic but I’ve seen technology evolve for the last 15 years of my career and 5 years is an eternity by tech industry standards.

Another take-home point of this blog post is to eat more foods that our bodies are genetically capable of digesting well – such as fruits, vegetables and meat. i.e. eat tons of salads! 🙂 If you come from a family that has been vegetarian for hundreds of years, like mine, eat vegetarian food since you may not have the genetics to digest meat well.