DNA tests can provide a roadmap towards weight loss, experts say

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CHICAGO -- For part two of WGN's look at whether DNA diets, assignment desk editor Diona Donelson bought three kits online  and sent in her own DNA samples. She then waited for results and shared with us which ones she liked best and why.

Their conclusions about fitness and nutrition was largely the same across the board and Diona tried them all for 30 days.  Her goal was to lose weight – and look good for her wedding.

She tested DNA Fit, Fitness Genes and Life Nome.

Results came back with a lot of paperwork on how to make positive health changes in her life. Exercise and eating were the focus.

Diona enlisted the help of a doctor in integrative medicine at Northwestern and a group of trainers headed up by the gym’s owner of Mind, Body and Soul in Chicago. Together they helped Diona sift through it all and give it her all.

It started with measurements and an overhaul of her eating habits.

For 30 days she sweated her way through the gym five days a week. Biking, yoga, and high intensity training - just what the DNA diet companies suggested.

When she wasn’t working out or working at WGN, Diona was carefully cooking her own meals and largely following a Mediterranean diet as all three DNA diets suggested.

Ashanti Johnson at Mind, Body and Soul helped her lose the first 38 pounds. They’ve been working together since January getting Diona to the gym. Ashanti also kept Diona on track during our 30 day DNA diet test that went from Sept 17th to Oct 16th.

Her trainer’s take on the paperwork all based on the Diona’s DNA?

“I think it’s great information and the fact that it’s coming from your DNA  is even more of a one-two punch,” Ashanti says.  “But if you’re the type of person that craves a ton of information, that is going to be golden. If you’re not, it’s going to seem a little daunting.”

Daunting because it’s a lot of detailed information. For example:  What’s your “PPARG” or LCT gene? And what do they do?

One is associated with fat and carb processing. The other lactose tolerance. But only the pros might know that.

Ashanti calls these tests trendy.

“I think these tests were relatively easy to read as a trainer, but for the average person there’s a lot of jargon in here that you would have to do a lot of research on your own to really understand,” she says.

While the gym helps Diona focus on exercise, even Ashanti admits,  “Weight loss really starts in the kitchen.”

Diona has had to turn her meals upside down because of what her genes revealed. She is eating less fast food and less fried food. She’s dissecting every label and every recipe. White rice becomes brown rice. Cereal is now whole grain and even her pasta is now whole wheat. Her DNA results told Diona to eat fruits and vegetables galore to get more vitamins B, C and D. And to consumer more lean meats and fish, too. She was at risk for deficiencies when it came to all three vitamins. Another goal is to eat food made with less salt, less oils and less carbs.

But this was no real news flash to experts like Dr. Melinda Ring of Northwestern’s Osher Center for Integrative Medicine.

“I think the idea of nutrigenomics in which we can test somebody’s DNA and create an individual profile to say which diet is the best, which nutrients you need, is not quite there yet,” she says.

However she also says, “I think the whole idea of personalized nutrition is the future of medicine and the future of nutrition.”

She says 25% of people who do direct to consumer tests actually make meaningful change in their lives.

“That means 75% of the people don’t,” she says.

These tests are not regulated by the FDA and still have a long way to go, but Dr. Ring has hope.

“I didn’t see anything that looked fraudulent.  I think the DNA tests are based on the current level of science.”

Diona has hope too because after 30 days of huffing and puffing in the gym and 30 days of toiling over every meal she lost 7 more pounds during and 2 1/2” inches in her bust and 2 inches in her waist.  She also gained muscle in her arms, thighs and derrière. It has brought her total weight loss for the year so far to 45 pounds.

“The key is more exercise, and an overall change in diet,” Diona says. “Basically a lifestyle change.  I think before I eat. And I stop eating when I’m full.”

Our professionals say these tests are not a waste of time, but they go on to say that they should serve as a great guide to take to experts in the food or exercise fields.


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