What are traits?

Friday, January 24, 2020. Author Alex Auld

Your genetic code and lifestyle data combine to create your personal traits

Your genetic code provides us with critical insights into how your body uniquely responds to diet, exercise, supplements and lifestyle changes. However, at FitnessGenes, your DNA is just one of the factors that we consider when determining the optimal way for you to eat, work out and live your life.

Your lifestyle and environment also heavily interact with your genes and shape your biology and must, therefore, be accounted for. That’s why, rather than simple single gene results, your FitnessGenes analysis is delivered on truefeed® as traits.

Traits are measurable aspects of your internal biology. They are calculated by FitnessGenes by combining both your individual gene variants AND your self-reported lifestyle and environmental data using our complex algorithm known as TrueTrait®.

Traits are therefore vastly more informative than looking at DNA alone. Furthermore, traits give us a more dynamic picture as they have the potential to adjust over time as your lifestyle or environmental factors (such as age, weight, activity level) change.

 

Building a trait

Let’s unpack one of our most popular traits as an example: testosterone level.

Rather than simply analyzing a single gene variant linked to testosterone level, FitnessGenes’ TrueTrait® algorithm combines the following 11 gene variants and six lifestyle factors to predict whether you have low, average or high natural testosterone production:

Genetic variants*:

REEP3 (rs10822184), ZNF789 (rs148982377), ZKSCAN5 (rs34670419), SHBG (rs6258), ESR1 (rs722208), SHBG (rs727428), SHBG (rs12150660), SHBG (rs1799941), ACTN3 (rs1815739), rs5934505, ATP1B2 (rs72829446).

*Note: at FitnessGenes we test for variants of genes created by single-letter changes in the DNA sequence called SNPs (Single Nucleotide Polymorphisms). The rs numbers in brackets correspond to the SNPs analysed. To read more about SNPs, please visit our Function of DNA article.

Lifestyle factors:

Age, activity level, waist circumference, body mass, height, body composition, sleep, gender.

 

The importance of your lifestyle and environment

Without accommodating the significant influence of lifestyle and environmental factors, any conclusions made purely on an individual’s DNA can be potentially misleading. Let’s stay with testosterone level and consider how traits may differ once lifestyle and environmental factors have been added to the equation:

Francis and Gareth both have an abundance of genetic variants that indicate high natural testosterone production. All looks good and healthy so far.

However, what we are yet to discover is that, while Francis is 23 years old, works out 4-5 times per week and has a body fat percentage of 10%, Gareth is 65, inactive, and has a body fat percentage of over 25%.

Considering these differences in lifestyle factors, it would be wholly incorrect to conclude that they are producing the same levels of natural testosterone. It’s likely that there are a few small actions that Francis can follow to further optimize his testosterone level, while Gareth’s actions will involve more drastic lifestyle changes.

 

Trait bands

By maximising the number of genetic and lifestyle factors that we input into the TrueTrait algorithm, we can place you into categories or trait bands that more accurately reflect how your body functions.

In your testosterone level trait, we use your genetic and lifestyle factors to create nine possible trait bands for male clients.

These range from ‘high genetic, lifestyle good’ to ‘low genetic, lifestyle suboptimal’. For women, who have different physiology with respect to testosterone production, there are three trait bands (lower, average, higher).

As well as more accurately depicting how your body functions, these categorisations allow us to identify and recommend the actions that are most relevant for you.

 

Keeping your truefeed® updated

Due to the significance of lifestyle and environmental factors within the TrueTrait® algorithm, it’s essential that you keep this data up-to-date at all times. You can update responses in the Lifestyle Survey to do this.

If you lose a few pounds by following your personal workout plan and nutrition guide, for example, it’s important to update this information, as it could adjust several of your traits, moving you into a different band.

You’ll be asked to complete your lifestyle survey upon completion of your DNA analysis, but you can adjust this data anytime by visiting ‘Settings > Lifestyle survey’ within your FitnessGenes member account.

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