I’ve boiled down 5 quick ways that you can use your genetic data (23andMe, AncestryDNA, etc) to optimize your diet to fit your genes.
#1) Are you genetically lactose intolerant?
Lactase is the enzyme that breaks down the sugar, lactose, that is found in milk products.
While most people of European Caucasian ancestry produce lactase as an adult, about 10% of that population doesn’t produce lactase. For people of other ancestries, the majority do not produce lactase as adults.
A/A: Still produces lactase as an adult
A/G: Still produces lactase as an adult (less than those with A/A – study)
G/G: No longer produces lactase as an adult
#2) Are fruits and vegetables giving you enough vitamin A?
C/T: decreased beta-carotene conversion
T/T: decreased beta-carotene conversion
A/T: decreased beta-carotene conversion
T/T: decreased beta-carotene conversion
#3) Is saturated fat increasing your risk of high blood pressure?
Check your 23andMe results for rs4343 (v4, v5):
- A/A: A/CE insertion/insertion
- A/G: A/CE deletion/insertion
- G/G: A/CE deletion/deletion – saturated fat intake may increase blood pressure
Lifehacks: This is definitely a case where if you have the A/CE deletion and higher blood pressure, you should experiment with reducing saturated fat and see if your blood pressure comes down. The study showed approx. a 10 point average difference in systolic blood pressure for those with the A/CE deletion and high-fat diet.
Read more about the interaction between high-fat diet, blood pressure, and your genes.
#4) Will drinking coffee in the morning decrease your risk of heart attack?
Check your 23andMe results for rs762551 (v4, v5):
- C/C: Slow metabolizer of caffeine, increased risk of heart attack with more than 2-3 cups of coffee per day
- A/C: Slow metabolizer of caffeine, increased risk of heart attack with more than 2-3 cups of coffee per day
- A/A: Fast metabolizer of caffeine, decreased risk of heart attack with 2 – 3 cups of coffee a day
Looking for a way to pep up your morning coffee? Here are a couple of options:
- Try Bulletproof coffee with Brain Octane oil.
- Try Four Sigmatic Lion’s Mane and Chaga mushroom extracts for cognitive benefits (my new favorite!):
- Roast your own green coffee beans. It is fairly easy to do, and the taste of fresh roasted coffee is outstanding. You can use an air popper or simply a skillet on a propane burner (outside, ’cause it is a bit smoky to roast it).
#5) What about carbs???
A study came out recently showing that both low carb and low-fat diets were equally effective for weight loss. There are other studies showing differences in dieting results of low carb or low fat that depend in part on genetic variants. Looking at your genes may give you an idea of which diet would work best for you.
Amylase is the enzyme that digests of carbs, starting in your mouth. A genetic variant in the amylase gene (AMY1-AMY2) predicts whether you are likely to produce a lot of the enzyme or less of the enzyme to break down carbs.
Check your 23andMe results for rs11185098 (v.4 only):
- A/A: higher amylase activity
- A/G: intermediate amylase activity
- G/G: lower amylase activity
Your genes also play a role in how carbohydrates are likely to affect your blood glucose levels.
Check your 23andMe results for rs2943641 (v4, v5) IRS1 gene:
Check your 23andMe results for rs1800849 (v4) UPC3 gene:
- A/A: no decrease in glucose or insulin levels on high protein/low carb diet [study]
- A/G: no decrease in glucose or insulin levels on high protein/low carb diet
- G/G: lower glucose levels, better weight loss on high protein/low carb diet
Lifehacks: If you are a lower amylase producer but want to try a higher carb / lower fat diet, you can supplement with the amylase enzyme. I recommend actually testing your blood glucose levels to see how you react to different foods/meals. Blood glucose testing kits are not all that expensive and will give you a way to quantify and keep track of your response.
I hope you have found something here that is useful. Personally, I’m often frustrated by the one-size-fits-all approach that so many health and wellness websites proclaim. While I didn’t have huge health problems, the little diet adjustments based on my genes have made a noticeable difference for me. For example, figuring out that I don’t convert beta-carotene to vitamin A lead me to try a supplement of the retinol form of vitamin A. A month later I noticed that I didn’t have the little bumps (keratosis pilaris) on the back of my arms that had been there since childhood. (And yes, I did test it out to make sure it was the vitamin A by stopping the supplement for a month, at which point the bumps came back.) While getting rid of bumpy skin isn’t earthshattering, all the little tweaks to my diet and lifestyle based on what I’ve learned from my genes have added up to me being healthier and mentally sharper.