Eliminate Repetitive Dietary Failures With Technology And Personalization

Wednesday, February 15, 2017. Author Martin Cheifetz

A short while ago, we were contacted by a leading fitness technology company Accuro after a blog on their website received a huge amount of traffic.  Accuro’s blog asked:

Why is there a growing interest in DNA-based diets?

Accuro’s answer referenced a study conducted by Human Nutrition Research Center at the University of Newcastle (UK) in which Dr. John Mathers, the lead investigator of a six-month study of the efficacy of personalized diets based on genetics (vs “generic healthy eating guidelines like lots of fruit and vegetables, lean meats and whole grains), states:

"The bottom line is those who were in the personalized diet cohort did better than those in the one-size-fits-all diet group, making us pretty confident personalized diets are the way forward."

Accuro’s traffic spike led them to pursue an interview with FitnessGenes, where we discussed  the topics of fitness technology,  and the benefits of  personalized workout and nutrition plans for consumers.

Below are some highlights from the interview (with Accurofit asking the questions): 

What exactly does FitnessGenes do?

FitnessGenes interprets people's DNA to help them build muscle, burn fat, and lead healthier, longer lives. We've taken an incredibly complex series of processes and made it very simple, easy, and affordable for the consumer.

All the consumer needs to do is send us their saliva sample and then we extract and analyze their DNA for dozens of genetic variables that influence metabolism, appetite, muscle structure, and performance.

When a customer registers the barcode of their DNA sample on our secure website, we also conduct a thorough lifestyle survey, because these "environmental" factors influence how a person's genes express themselves (This is called epigenetics).

After a detailed analysis of a customer's combined DNA and lifestyle data, we provide precise, actionable advice on how that consumer should eat and train to achieve their body composition goals. Furthermore, if the customer desires a more structured diet and exercise program, we also create goal-specific, genetically tailored weekly plans detailing each day's workout, caloric load, and macronutrient breakdown.

These have been very popular, particularly with consumers who have previously struggled to either lose weight or build a lean, muscular physique.

With DNA-based fitness analyses, how can consumers be sure that the testing mechanisms and/or results are accurate?

The first part of the question pertains to the DNA testing itself, which is incredibly accurate. The FitnessGenes system uses the only FDA-approved saliva collection kit currently on the market. In addition, our DNA tests happen in duplicate, so every single person who gets tested actually gets tested twice to make sure that their results are consistent and accurate.

In terms of the customer's DNA results, we utilize three levels of research:

1) peer-reviewed research that relates to the specific SNP (Single-Nucleotide Polymorphism) that we're talking about

2) our own process of discovery within the algorithmic models that we've created, refined, and tested via rigorous R&D

3) our proprietary research in collaboration with the big universities.

So in terms of interpretation of the results, we have a very stringent, peer-reviewed academic research validation process that ensures accuracy.

What is a DNA-based diet, and how popular are these diets right now?

Very simply, generic "diets" simply don't work for everybody. We use an "animal kingdom" example that illustrates the problem rather well.

Let's say a consumer follows a magazine's (or website's or celebrity's or personal trainer's) "6 weeks to a 6-pack" or "6 weeks to a bikini body" diet. That diet (and its training plan) may be 100% solid from a health and nutritional perspective. The training plan may also be well-thought out and carefully periodized. However, if 100 people follow this diet and exercise plan, probably only 5% of the user base will achieve the goal. Why will 95% fail? Simply because that generic program was written by a "lion." All the other "lions" who followed the "lion" training plan achieved their fitness or body composition goal.

But what about the giraffes, the gorillas, or the platypuses? Not much chance of success on the "lion" diet, is there? And it's not just about simply switching from a "lion plan" to a "platypus plan." The consumer may have to work around the entire zoo before they find the animal plan that matches their specific genotype. In doing so, how many more times will they fail? And how many failures can they endure before they just give up entirely?

By cutting out the guesswork entirely (such as, informing the consumer on Day 1 that they are a "giraffe" and should "eat leaves from tall trees"), we eliminate the repetitive failure cycle and put them directly on the road to success. People find this quantifiable, personalized data very empowering. It is far more motivating to know that you are doing the right thing; and that if you continue doing the right thing you, will get results.

If a person were to ask you, "So, if I follow both my FitnessGenes training plan and my DNA-based diet to the letter, is it guaranteed that I will achieve a predetermined result?" how would you respond?

While I wouldn't go so far as to guarantee a predetermined result (because physical results always vary due to incredibly complex circumstances), I am extraordinarily confident that a "giraffe" will achieve more success "eating the leaves from tall trees" than they will "chasing zebras, unpeeling bananas, or sucking larvae out of the ground." Therefore, it follows that if a person adheres to a genetically-tailored, goal-specific diet and exercise plan to the letter, they will have a much higher degree of success and a much lower rate of failure than a person who just randomly grabbed a diet and exercise plan "off the shelf."

Here's another way to think about it. Let's say you're a student and you need to prepare for a history exam. Would you feel more confident walking into an exam room knowing only that you will be tested on "U.S. History", or if you knew in advance that the test topic was "Compare/Contrast U.S.-Russian relations in the Reagan vs. Obama Presidencies?" In which scenario would you predict a better outcome for the student?

How prevalent will these "designer" diets and workout plans become over the next five to ten years?

Five years ago, these kinds of personalized diets and workouts were the preserve of professional or elite athletes only. Five years from now, they will become the "new normal."

With all of the advances in wearables and increased availability of biological data that is making personalized wellness and precision healthcare possible; the apps and tests that fuel the quantified self and biohacking movements; and the reduction in costs that make this level of specialization increasingly available and affordable, why would anyone settle for "generic" when they can get "precise?" Why would you settle for an exercise plan that did not play to your strengths, or for a diet that stuffed you with the incorrect foods?


To see the full version of this and many other interesting interviews on fitness and technology, please visit the Accurofit Blog

Related articles on the FitnessGenes blog:

The Quantified Self Movement

3 Easy Ways You Can Get Started

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