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We often recommend the University of Utah 'Learn Genetics' pages as a great resource to learn more about genetics in an enjoyable and easy to follow way. You can find the full website here: learn.genetics.utah.edu.
For more formal reviews, there are many scientific papers that currently cover the field of fitness genetics and genotyping. You can search pubmed for recent articles of interest (ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed). For example, the following is a nice review of the literature around sports genetics: ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/19208613
In terms of the genes we analyse, we review many papers for each and every genetic variant, so there are hundreds of individual papers in total that contribute to the literature reviews we present on each. We provide the references for these within your results, so you are welcome to follow up any of these individual papers if they are of interest (most are open source). If you login to your FitnessGenes account and follow the link to 'Your Gene Results' you will be able to see the citation lists for each of these genes at the bottom of the page.
We test a number of genetic variations known (through peer reviewed scientific research) to have some effect on, for example, your physical fitness, tendency to be better at strength or endurance based activities, your metabolism, and your sensitivity to a high fat diet. Then we provide workout and nutritional advice based on your genetic results.
You might be able to work out, over a long period of time, how your body responds to all of the different variables in training and nutrition, isolating each variable (e.g. tempo, recovery periods) and keeping detailed notes as you monitor the impact, or you could quickly gain this insight through a DNA analysis and our summary of the thousands of scientific studies that have already been completed. You’ll still need to monitor how well you respond based on our predictions, as there can be other factors outside of current knowledge that can impact on your response to a particular variable, but ultimately you’ll be doing this from a much better-informed starting point.
You will also benefit from our Science team continuing to review hundreds of scientific papers each month in what is a rapidly expanding field, to bring you even deeper insight and more sophisticated models in the future, helping you to optimise your fitness and training regimen.
DNA test results range from the straightforward - a physical characteristic that can be affected by a particular version of one gene, to very complex - a physical characteristic that is affected by many genes, environmental and lifestyle factors.
Whether DNA tests are reliable or not depends on what you are using the results for. A DNA test to see whether you carry a version of a gene that codes for brown eyes is likely to be accurately linked to whether you have brown eyes or not. However, a company using a DNA test for testosterone levels for example, will need to test several different genes and take other factors into consideration like diet and lifestyle before estimating testosterone levels.
As well as testing your genes, we also use a lifestyle questionnaire to allow these relevant environmental factors to be taken into account when making your personalised recommendations – a very important step in providing you with the most accurate advice.
We also test your DNA sample twice, and compare the results, to further check our accuracy before your gene results are confirmed.
Some genes have a more powerful effect than others. For example, we test customers for a version of one gene linked very strongly to lactose tolerance; this can tell you if you are genetically intolerant to dairy products. We also test for a gene which is associated with a higher risk of obesity and which can give carriers cravings for fatty foods – very helpful in early humans, but less helpful in today’s society! We also test for a gene related to sleep cycles. All these factors have a combined effect on the performance, timing and overall success of your workouts, fitness and weight loss activity.
Our team of scientists read hundreds of scientific papers every month related to the genes we test you for. We then discuss our findings with each other and write customer reports as honestly and transparently as possible given what we know about how genes work. We consider the quality of the experiments used to test these genes in humans and animals, how these genes interact with other genes (both tested for and not tested for), and we consider the effect the environment has on the influence of these genes on your biology.
Humans have over 20,000 genes and we have picked the ones that we believe are the most relevant in terms of fitness traits at present. This information is used to offer you advice on how to achieve your goals more efficiently based on your genetics.
We agree that the validity of DNA tests and what information they can provide you with is something which should be considered carefully. A 2006 report cited by the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) states:
‘The results of genetic tests are not always “black and white.” That makes interpretations and explanations difficult. In most cases, diseases occur as a result of interaction between our genes and the environment — for example, our lifestyle, foods we eat, elements we are exposed to such as sunlight, and tobacco. The interaction between these factors in contributing to health and disease can be very complicated. Even health care experts are just beginning to understand these issues. That’s why it is important to gather and analyze this information with a qualified healthcare provider so you can be sure genetic data is accurate and correctly used.’
FitnessGenes agrees completely with this statement about results not being black and white and environmental factors being extremely important. It is worth noting that FitnessGenes is not a disease-predicting DNA testing service. FitnessGenes test for genes related to fitness, diet and exercise performance and provide very detailed summaries of these genes along with the relevant scientific references.
We also consider the interaction of environment and lifestyle and our sports scientists formulate training plans and nutritional recommendations using their combined knowledge of physiology, genetics, fitness, nutrition and exercises proven to be effective. All our recommendations are based on our interpretation of the relevant scientific research and wherever possible we reference accordingly to allow others to check where we are getting our information from.
As already stated and detailed in the disclaimer, FitnessGenes welcome interpretation of your DNA test results with a qualified medical professional.
Our recommendations are all based on peer-reviewed scientific research. We appreciate that genes work in very complex ways and we always aim to provide our customers with honest, unbiased advice.
The scientists in our team, who have been awarded PhDs from accredited universities, care about scientific integrity and spend their time researching the literature to ensure recommendations are as up to date and as scientifically sound as possible. We understand there are a lot of unknowns and controversies in the field of genetics, which is why we provide unbiased advice and keep our customers up to date with new research information.
Lactose intolerance and folate deficiency are two examples of where many valid scientific studies have shown a clear relationship between genes and nutritional deficiencies and tolerances to certain foods. For example, we test for a few genes involved in folate metabolism and give our customers individualised nutritional / supplementary advice based on their genetic results. Our scientists have reviewed hundreds of scientific studies and we make our customers aware of the controversial studies and where research is still needed.
However, the point the FDA may be trying to get across is that there are no recorded studies showing that customers of DNA testing companies have benefitted from nutritional recommendations in the long run. This is mainly because consumer genetic testing is very new and the fact that these studies need to be conducted over decades to make conclusions on the long-term effects.
Since genetic fitness testing is a relatively new field, we collaborate with different research groups from reputable universities and use surveys / questionnaires to get feedback from customers. This is hopefully going to result in academic publications in the future that can provide this missing link between the genetic variants we know about currently and how they are applied to make effective personalised nutritional recommendations.
No. All of the genetic variations we test for are researched by our own inhouse team of scientists and we use our own proprietary genotyping panel (the technology we use to analyse your DNA). Although there will be some overlap with the variations we test and other companies, all of our recommendations are original and are made after careful review by all our scientists.