Can DNA Testing Help You Lose Weight and Maximize Your Fitness? [Podcast Episode #078]
There are some unavoidable facts of getting older: We're all going to grow some grey hairs, get a few wrinkles, and probably lose some hearing or sight along the way. But what about metabolism?
Is it a certainty that aging brings with it weight-gain and an inability to shed fat? Is your metabolism set on a declining trajectory that you have no control over? Let's find out...
Make Your Body Work Podcast: Episode #078
Watch as I unbox my DNA testing kit.
Watch as I take my DNA sample.
Can DNA Testing Help You Lose Weight and Maximize Your Fitness? [Full Text]
Dave: Hey, thanks so much for joining me on this episode of the Make Your Body Work Podcast. As you know, the show is all about helping you live a healthier and happier life. Today's episode it's one I'm excited about, I love these episodes when I get to learn something brand new and I'll admit, today's topic is brand new learning for me so I'm really excited to dive into Angela's question. Angela wrote in and she said,
"Hey, Dave. I was wondering if you have any experience with DNA testing. A friend of mine got hers done and has since changed her diet based on her test results. She's lost a bunch of weight and she says she feels great now, much more energy and fewer digestive issues. The test are expensive so I only want to do it if it's reliable. What do you think?"
Angela, thanks for writing in and I'm going to be completely transparent with you, I have never had my DNA tested. I haven't worked with any clients who have had theirs done. I know that this is pretty new science particularly new science in terms of being available to consumers like you and I. I'd say within the last few years really it's become readily available so I went out and did my homework and found an expert who is just completely immersed in the whole DNA testing world.
We're going to talk about what is DNA testing, what could you potentially learn from DNA testing, what kind of results could you expect from DNA testing, how much does it cost, how does it work, everything. We're going to learn a lot here and we're going to learn it together. I'm really excited to introduce to you, Lois Nahirney.
Meet Lois Nahirney
Dave: Hey, Lois, thanks so much for joining us on the show today.
Lois: Absolutely delighted to be here. Thanks so much, Dave.
Dave: When I got this question from Angela and she was asking me about DNA testing, I'm going to admit I am not an expert in DNA testing at all and so I went online and started searching for people that had some expertise in DNA testing and I came across you and your organization. I was wondering if you could start off by telling the audience a little bit about who you are and what do you do in the realm of DNA testing.
Lois: Yeah, absolutely. Again, it's not a surprise Dave that you and your guest don't know a lot about it. DNA testing is pretty new especially available out to the public. It's been around for a few years and our company has been doing this for quite a number now. We were one of the first in Canada to get into doing DNA testing for preventative health and it's just an amazing way to be able to look and get insight into your unique body and how it works. It's pretty exciting.
Dave: Maybe you can tell the audience, I'll admit, after I got Angela's question I did a ton of research and really looked into how it all works but I know there's probably going to be some listeners here who this is brand new to them so can you tell us what is the process, how does DNA testing work?
How Does DNA Testing Work?
Lois: What DNA testing does is it looks at our inherited genetic make up. As humans, our DNA is around 99.5% identical but when we do the DNA testing what we look at is the parts that vary between people.
In our genome we have about three billion what's called nucleotide bases and of that we have about three million that vary on average per person. What we're looking at is this differences and these differences are why we look different and why our health is different and why we're all unique.
At DNA Power, we focus on several hundred variations that are specifically related to diet, fitness and health areas that can help us make better decisions related to how we eat and exercise specific to our unique bodies.
Dave: Okay, that's amazing to me. You said 99.5% that we're the same?
Lois: Yes, that's correct. It varies between we're still learning more and more about it but between 99% and 99.9% so the average is about 99.5% identical but that still means that we have up to 10 or 20 million differences in our gene, the sequencing between us, and that again is what we study and what creates the incredible variation.
It's been fascinating because the human genome was only sequenced in 2003 and we're on an exponential exciting curve learning more about the human body all the time and that really is now becoming we're at this stage where that information is becoming very accessible to us as individuals.
Dave: That is amazing to me, when you look at the variety in people and you mentioned the way we look but personality types or skillsets that we have or body types, anything like that, that blows my mind that such a small percentage is different and can create such a variation.
Lois: That's why the DNA testing is so valuable because we can actually look and proven scientific research has shown areas that are directly linked to in our case, diet, fitness, and other health areas and we can study those specific places where the code in the gene is different and look to see if you have what's considered the regular sequence or a variation and sometimes it's called a mutation but a variation and how your body functions.
DNA Testing Worked For Me!
Dave: How, Lois, did you get involved in this because it sounds like it's quite new science? What got you interested in DNA testing? How did you get involved in this in the first place?
Lois: I actually went to this company and had my DNA tested a few years ago. I've been struggling with quite a number of things. I don't know, it's something I hit 40 and my body seemed to be falling apart. I was tired all the time. I was having troubles breathing and I had restless legs syndrome. My family doctor was sending me to all these specialists and we didn't find any answers.
I tested my DNA and I discovered that I have issues specifically related to vitamin Bs and I can't process them and it was causing me to be unable to get oxygen and support my iron and causing me to be anemic. As soon as I supplemented with special vitamin Bs and changed some of my diet, all of these symptoms that I've spent a few years trying to track down went away.
Even today, if I don't do some extra supplementation with B I will start getting shortness of breath and a bit anemic. It's quite a common variation among people to have this, especially as we get older, a decrease in our ability to manage that particular vitamin so it's an important one to look at.
In addition, I had also started putting on some weight and I had some hormone issues and discovered I have a 50% variation related to gluten and lactose. I've eaten this all my life and had no problems but as you age your genes can start to turn down or become less effective. When I saw how genetic variations in these areas I cut some of that out of my diet and in fact ended up dropping ten pounds quite quickly.
Dave: Wow, okay, you've just piqued my interest and I know the interest of a lot of people listening to this interview. I get question quite frequently about aging and, "My metabolism is slowing down," or, "My body reacts different to food than it used to, reacts differently to exercise than it used to. What's going on?" You just said that's exactly what you're going through and DNA showed you why. Was this something that a doctor recommended to you or how did you come across the whole concept of getting your DNA tested?
How DNA Testing Helps When You've Tried Everything and Still Feel Stuck
Lois: It was actually because I had friends involved in it and we were at function, they talked about it, the difference it was making for their clients and I said, "Okay, I've got to give this a try because I was really stuck in terms of trying to find and unlock the reasons for my health." That was what piqued my interest.
Dave: That is very fascinating. Even the word that you used there, feeling very stuck, again, I get a lot of questions from people and they use that exact same word, "I've been trying everything and I feel stuck," or, "What I used to do doesn't work anymore." It sounds like that's exactly where you were at.
Lois: That's exactly right. The way that some of this works is that DNA is our genetic roadmap and our DNA code stays essentially the same over a lifetime and our variations show us where we're predisposed to have health issues. The thing that's really important about this, Dave, is that DNA is not our destinies. Our bodies are really powerful, we have the ability to compensate and work around the problems.
Your body is powerful. You have the ability to compensate and work around any health problems you face.
They are just such incredibly smart machines that's why we know that a healthy diet, regular exercise, lower stress, avoiding toxins and good sleep can all make a really big difference to how our genes are expressed even when they aren't set up that well. As we age, our body tends to become a bit clogged like a filter and it just becomes less effective.
In fact, where I could get away with the number of things in my 20s and 30s, when I hit my 40s it just didn't work that way and we know that our bodies just aren't quite as effective and the genes are a bit like a dimmer switch and they will actually start to turn off.
That's why even though I could eat dairy products and breads growing up, as I hit my 40s my body just couldn't metabolize it any longer. The genes and the processes around it just weren't effective enough and it was causing a problem. My DNA gave me the map to say, "These are the areas you're likely to have problems."
DNA testing is like a map showing you the areas in which you're most likely to have health issues
I probably wasn't likely to believe it from, I just wouldn't believe it because, "I've eaten it all my life, why would I consider those would be a problem now?" The great thing about DNA is it's your road map of where you should be looking for your health challenges.
Dave: Okay, Lois. You got me so excited right now because I get working with a lot of clients and to go through these changes that you're talking about, the way that traditionally we've done it like myself as a health coach or other health practitioners is through experimentation and it would be things like an elimination diet to figure out, "Okay, dairy doesn't work.
Gluten doesn't work so it doesn't work," or whatever it is doesn't work and more often than not when I ask a client to try eliminating dairy in particular, people will say things like, "You know, I've always eaten dairy. I was always drinking milk and it's worked really well for my body, I don't need to cut that out." I really like what you just said about that idea of a dimmer switch and that just because something worked when you're 20 or 25 doesn't necessarily means it's going to work when we're 40 or 50 or 60.
Lois: Exactly, you could think of a dimmer switch and a filter that eventually gets clogged over a lifetime. You got to clear that filter out and potentially help your genes to be more effective to work. You're right, absolutely. The thing with your DNA results is that tells you these are the areas you should focus on and it gives you the data to help convince you that, "Okay, this is an issue. Here is scientific data that tells me these are the areas my body is set up to work well and not work well. If this is not set up to work well I better get on with it and deal with it.
How the DNA Testing Score Card Works
Dave: Can you maybe give an example of what that data might look like? For example, you talked about yourself and talked about restless legs syndrome or gaining weight and you said that you made some tweaks particularly surrounding B vitamins. What would be some other examples that people might get in terms of instructions like, "Do this in order to fix this," you know what I mean? What were the results look like?
Lois: What you get is actually a score card. We give you all of the areas. If you were to open up your diet test you would see diet management and you would see carbohydrates, cholesterol, fats, insulin and protein and the bar will have green and red on it. Some are all green and then you'll have some that are 50/50. I'm looking at a sample report right now and it's 50/50 on carbohydrates but fine on fats.
This is a person who they are trying to manage their weight should be looking at reducing their carbs because their body can't process it and will store it as fat but actually processes dietary fats really well and so should be on probably more of a Mediterranean type diet. That's one bucket of information.
We also look at food tolerances around alcohol, caffeine, gluten, lactose, salt, food taste and preferences because sometimes your taste preferences can influence what you eat. Importantly, if we look at vitamins, your As, Bs, Cs, Ds, Es, calcium, iron, and omegas to see if your genes are set up to work effectively in those areas.
That's some of the information you would receive. That's the summary. On each individual page we tell you about what are we testing for and what are the genes doing and what are we looking at and what are the tips or recommendations if you have an issue on this area.
DNA Testing vs. Allergy or Food Sensitivity Testing
Dave: Okay, interesting. As you're speaking there, I've done food sensitivity testing. The specific one that I did was an IgE test and it was similar in the idea that it gave me a list of foods and showed me how reactive or how sensitive I was to this food. Can you explain for myself and the audience what's the difference between DNA testing versus food sensitivity or allergy testing?
Lois: Yeah, that's a really great question. When you are doing food sensitivity or allergy testing, you are testing where your body is today. This is where you are right now, how your body is managing these different foods. When we do DNA testing we are going way back to something far more fundamental, we're saying how's your body programmed to deal with these foods.
That's in fact why often this can be very good complimentary test. You actually want your DNA in some cases first because that will highlight the areas you're likely to have differences but if you get your allergy testing, that will tell you what has become acquired over your lifetime versus what are you born with.
Dave: Okay, you're giving me hope because this was a while ago that I got my food sensitivity test done but one of my top ten was almonds and it's one of my favorites. I love almonds so let me get this straight, you're telling me that maybe I can eat almonds again, that was just a moment in time where I was most sensitive to them?
Lois: It can be. Again, don't know the answer for that for sure, Dave, but if you view your testing and find out that you don't have any issues related to monounsaturated fats then that's something you should be able to eat and it will just simply be that your body probably just need some things to clear out or help repair itself in order to be more effective in that area.
Who Is DNA Testing Really For?
Dave: Interesting. Now, in Angela's question, she made reference to a friend of hers who got her DNA tested and she said since her friend changed her diet then she's seen a bunch of weight gone and she feels really great. Who do you recommend DNA testing for? Is it particularly people who are having weight issues? Is it particularly for people who are having specific medical issues? Should we all be doing it? Who is this for?
Lois: It's for everybody. This is your most basic biology. Who we see, we have a real range of clients. We do see a lot of people who are experiencing health issues and just can’t unlock the reason. Definitely, a lot of people who are experiencing weight issues probably have been through the yo-yo dieting and are trying to find something that works because they’ve already done all the programs.
We also get a lot of health professionals like yourself who are looking for that edge to be as healthy as they possibly can and want to be proactive or athletes who want to get a real edge on how they compete. Actually, adopted families who want to learn more about their kids. I’m actually an adoptive parent of identical twin girls, we adopted our children when they were seven months and from the youngest age my identical twin girls were completely opposite.
Interestingly, one of my twins is transgendered and now a male. I actually became fascinated with DNA quite early to studying my identical twins and trying to learn why are they so different and what causes that. It’s been a fascinating thing and there’s just really DNA testing can be valuable for anybody.
How Much Can You Overcome Genetic Predispositions?
Dave: Okay, you just sort of jog the thought here in my head about you mentioned before that your DNA isn’t necessarily predictive of where you’re going to end up. On the show we talk a lot about weight management so I’m just going to use that as an example.
If someone were to do a DNA test and it showed that they are predisposed or tell me if this is even true but would it show that they are predisposed to being heavier and if so, how can someone overcome that?
Because I could imagine that it could be a pretty disheartening message if I got my report and said, “You know Dave, sorry you’re never going to be an athlete. You’re always going to struggle with your weight,” is that what happens?
Lois: Yes and no. Again, this is your predisposition and it’s a road map but you can manage around it. There are people who do have their genetics so one of the areas we test for is body mass index and the sample of client I’m looking at here has 45% red. It means that their genes aren’t just, really it’s a tougher battle. Any fats or any fat they put on is going to be harder to lose.
The thing though that we believe is that by getting this information you get hard evidence that says, "You need to be more careful. Let’s help you work with that. Let’s make sure you don’t have a problem." Again, I think it can give you very positive messaging and also if you don’t mind can I tell you about one client that we came in recently that we had just some great success with who was dealing with yo-yo weight loss?
DNA Case Study: How DNA Testing Can Lead to Weight-Loss
Dave: Yeah, please I’d love to hear.
Lois: This was a gal on her 50s, overweight for years, type two diabetes and had been on every diet there was with all the national weight loss change, traditional diets, gym memberships, et cetera. When we got back her DNA results we discovered that in fact she had lots of really great news. She was set up to manage carbohydrates perfectly but had high variations in her ability to process fat.
Most of the diets that she’d been working on were the Mediterranean type diet which are higher in fat, lower in carbs. In her case that was her DNA report years and years of issues. In fact, a high BMI index as well told her that if she does switches her diet up she should be a low fat, high carb diet and additional proteins. In the last few months she’s lost 40 pounds and four dress sizes simply because she finally is on a diet that her body is set up to be able to manage.
With DNA testing, you can follow a diet your body is naturally designed to be able to manage.
Dave: That’s so cool. That’s a really encouraging story because when you described her, that idea of trying every diet, trying every exercise program, I know there are a lot of people that are listening to this call right now that would say, “Yeah, that’s me. That’s exactly where I’m at.”
Lois: There’s that and then there’s people who are healthy too. I’ve got another fellow here who was in his mid 40s, actually a professional athlete, bodybuilder, personal trainer and he was feeling exhausted all the time, in fact, using stimulants to try to get his energy up, feeling really moody, just all over the map.
When we tested his DNA he discovered that he actually can’t process protein very well in his diet. That’s why he was having to work super hard to get his energy up and he ended up having issues in vitamin B as well by simply increasing his protein and increasing his B12s. He said he’s just feeling better, competing better and he completely swears by now, eating by his DNA.
Dave: I'd completely buy into that. The trouble with that or the dangerous point with that is someone like you just talked about with those two clients, they go ahead and tell their friend, “Hey, I made these changes in my diet and all of a sudden I lost weight or have more energy.” Then their friend thinks, “Wow, they found the secret therefore I should do that too,” but it sounds like their DNA, the friend’s DNA might not be setup to handle that diet nearly as well, is that true?
Lois: You’re exactly right. That’s why there is no one size fits all diet. It has to be related to your body and that’s why it’s so exciting to be in this new generation of health where we now can get the road map for our body and make sure we take a diet or a program and adjust it so that it’s best for us.
Because you’re exactly right, for years you’ll get a particular type of a diet and it works for some people but we see it doesn’t work for others or it works for you for a period of time but if it’s working counter to your DNA you actually kind of mess your genes up a bit and that’s how come you get some of this yo-yo weight loss. It’ll work for awhile, you'll lose weight but your body can’t keep fighting what it's set up and designed to do naturally.
There is no one-size-fits all diet. What you eat has to align with what your body wants and needs.
A Particular Type of Diet For Everyone?
Dave: Even personally I really agree with that and have experienced that myself. A quick little story, I have been going through a procedure to heal some knee injuries that I’ve had. I don’t know if you’re familiar with platelet-rich plasma?
Lois: I’m an advocate, I do it as well.
Dave: You do, okay great. It’s been like a miracle cure for a knee. I’ve torn my ACL twice in my right knee and so I’ve been having this treatment. I went in to see the doctor and when they extracted my plasma, he came back and was kind of concerned and I thought, “Geez, what’s going on?” and he asked me if I had eaten a big meal right before I came.
I hadn’t eaten and I said, “No. Why do you ask that?” and he showed me my plasma and it was kind of cloudy and he said, “Your plasma is really fatty.” Sometimes that’ll happen if someone comes in and they’ve just eaten right before we take out your blood.
The reason is because I eat a very, very high fat diet and that’s been something that just through experimentation like I said it’s taken me literally over ten years to refine and tweak my diet to find the exact macronutrient mix that works really well for me.
If I were to prescribe my diet to probably nine out of ten people, it would be the exact opposite of what they need. When you’re talking about clients that find their exact mix, that’s so exciting because it can skip that huge experimentation process.
Lois: Exactly. Up until now we’ve had almost no data to work with other than trial and error to see what works. This is not a silver bullet so I don’t want listeners to think that this will suddenly provide the answer but it will give you insight at the most foundational level of your body that you’ve never had before and it’s good for your lifetime. Even if things show up, hopefully you can stave off any of the areas that are the issue for most of your life if you eat and exercise and manage to your DNA.
How Can I Get My DNA Tested?
Dave: Very cool. Because like I said I’m new to this, can you tell me what the process is like? If I wanted to get my DNA tested what would I have to do?
Lois: You know what, it is so super simple now, Dave. The ability for the labs and the equipment to process this have just gone through exponential change. From a procedure that would have cost three billion the first time we sequence the human genome is now just a few hundred dollars.
The process itself is very simple, you go online, order a kit, it’s mailed to your house, you can do it at home and you simply do a little simple cheek swab. It looks like kind of a fancy cue tip, you rub the inside of your cheeks, pop it back in, send it back and you're emailed your results. That simple.
Dave: That is so cool. Actually, I was going to ask you about cost because in Angela’s question she mentioned that she said, and we’re just quoting her now. She said, “This test are expensive so I only want to do it if it’s reliable,” and you said it could be only several hundred dollars because I was under the impression that it was a few thousand dollars.
Lois: Yeah, it depends on what you’re having tested. For us, our basic diet test is $299 but we usually recommend that you bundle it with some of the others to get a bit more information. If you get everything we have it would generally cost a few thousand to test but we offer a bundle for $999 and that’s our company and that’s what we think gives a good package of information.
That’s fairly tight cost when you test DNA it actually goes into the lab, you have to extract and replicate and analyze. We’re using pretty sophisticated lab equipment far more so I would hazard to say than blood testing and other things in order to get the information.
That’s why there is some cost but you think about it, in a few hundred dollars for information that is good for your lifetime. That’s not like blood testing having to go back again and again and you’ve now got information that hopefully will help influence your decision making and eating for the rest of your life.
Dave: That is interesting like from a value proposition when I got my IgE test done, I don’t remember the exact cost because it’s probably about five years ago now but it was several hundred dollars and like you said, that’s for one sort of snapshot in time as opposed to actually looking at my genetic makeup.
Lois: Exactly. This is actually a really great investment to make to find out more about how your body works and to then give you the information and the data to hopefully make better decisions day to day on how you manage your health.
Make Your Body Work Takeaway
Dave: Going back to Angela’s question because I do want to give her, Angela if you’re listening, speaking to you right now. I want to give you some guidance, it sounds like you’re sort of wavering back and forth should you go through this DNA testing. Lois, if you’re speaking to Angela face to face right, what would your advice be to her?
Lois: I would say if you’re having some challenges this is a wonderful way to get some real insight into the core of your body. For let’s say the basic test of 299 we have the chance to potentially unlock some critical areas that might be affecting your health and it can help make you a healthier person. It’ll certainly give you some insights about how you want to manage yourself day to day.
Of course we’re huge advocates, we think this is incredibly fascinating and interesting and a complete new way to manage your health. I highly encourage Angela and others to say take the step now and start learning about DNA. It will become the way we manage our health in the future particularly in preventive health but also in the areas of disease and other so DNA is the future.
Dave: It’s neat Lois, because you come through it with a very positive personal experience and I think that's the best testimonies to be able to say, “Hey, I did it and this is what it did for me,” as opposed to if you came on here and were just kind of giving us a sales pitch and hadn’t had any experience with it, that’s completely different story.
When I talk about, I’ll just use my example again of platelet-rich plasma treatment. If anyone ever ask me about knee issues, geez, I am like the instant salesman for PRP and I don’t get any benefit from it but it’s just improved my life so much. When you talk about, “Hey, it worked for me. Give it a try,” it’s an authentic message.
You and I were talking before the show and I’m going to go and get my DNA tested because I would like to experience it exactly what you talked about. I’d like to invite the listeners to do it with me. In the show notes I’m actually going to have a link or for listeners you can go to makeyourbodywork.com/DNA and you’ll see what it is that I’m doing there.
If you want to join me I’m going to have an opportunity to connect, we can talk about the results and go through this together. Definitely give it a shot. I’d love to see what you guys get as results and then share mine as well. Lois, hopefully there’s going to be a whole group of Make Your Body Work community coming and getting this done.
Lois: We would have so much fun doing it. This is a way to really take power over your health and it’s all the more fun and we can look at it together and help each other be more healthy.
What are DNA Testing Timelines?
Dave: Awesome. Yeah, Lois, thanks again for answering Angela’s question and for giving us the opportunity and myself included to get it done. Thank you and I would like to have you back because I know actually one last question because I go is timing. I would like to have you back after my DNA test results have come in. What would be the start to finish timing for any listeners who are interested?
Lois: Thanks. The big issue is actually just the mail, once we get an order we mail it out to you. It depends how long it takes for you to mail it back to us and then we have booked with our lab. We have specific runtime so it just have to get it in. On average we say expected to take about four weeks.
Dave: Okay, so it’s not a huge wait time then.
Dave: Awesome, okay. Let’s plan on doing that. I'd love to get you back like I said after my DNA test and then hopefully some others as well that are doing it with me and we can talk about those results and then some application of what to do with these results.
Lois: That sounds really fun. Thank you so much, Dave.
Dave: Thanks again, Lois for being on the show and just sharing so much cool information about DNA testing and what it can show us, who it’s for, how it can be beneficial and how to get started. I know I’m super excited to have my DNA tested and like we just talked about, if you as a listener are interested in joining me and having your DNA tested.
I’ve got a special opportunity for you and if you go makeyourbodywork.com/DNA you can learn all about that or in the show notes for this episode of the podcast which is podcast episode 78. You’ll find the show notes for this episode at makeyourbodywork.com/78.
Again, you’ll find the link there to the DNA page and you can take a look and see, is this right for you, is this the type of information that you need, is this something that you’d like to do with me and like to do with other people in the Make Your Body Work community. Be sure to check that out and again thanks for everyone who tuned in today.
I always say this but think back to this episode or hopefully as you’re going through this episode your brain was working. You weren’t just sitting there passively taking on information but thinking about how does this apply to you, what are you going to do, what’s that one thing that you’re going to do that’s going to change your life even a little bit because we’re all about baby steps in every episode you listen to if you can take away one little thing that’s going to be implemented in your life, it’s going to create change in your life. Wow, what a different person you’re going to be a year from now and that, man, that gets me just so excited even thinking about that. Thanks again for tuning in.
Real change takes time. It starts with the ONE THING you choose to do today.
Next Week’s Episode
Next week I have a really cool episode and it’s called, "I Am My Own Worst Critique" and maybe you can relate to that. It’s about how we can beat ourselves up, not appreciate the changes that we are making and what happens when we get into that vicious cycle of beating yourselves up, bring yourselves down and then beating yourselves up again. Be sure to tune in with me for that episode. Have a great week and I can’t wait to see you here in the next episode of the Make Your Body Work Podcast.