Portuguese researchers developed a test that analyzes more than 70 genes to understand how genetics influence body composition and the reaction to some nutrients, helping to personalize the strategy for a healthier life.
In statements to the Lusa agency, the researcher Daniel Luis, who created the test, explained that, through saliva, it is possible to analyze more than a hundred genetic markers that help to understand if the person is more likely to gain weight and how he reacts to ingestion of some nutrients, allowing to understand the reaction to caffeine and sleep restrictions.
The test that does this is the analysis of genetic markers [75 genes e 102 marcadores genéticos] so that the person can have more information about themselves. It allows, for example, to understand how genetics influences body composition, how it reacts to diets, physical exercise and the intake of various nutrients ”, such as carbohydrates, fats or fibers, he said.
In this way, the test helps to understand “what changes can the person make in the diet in order to promote health and a healthy weight”, he added.
According to the researcher, who belongs to a team from the Portuguese startup HeartGenetics, a company that was born at the Instituto Superior Técnico (IST), the test also allows to perceive if the person has a greater or lesser sensitivity to sleep restrictions, which has an impact at the level metabolic.
Speaking to Lusa, the nutritionist and researcher Conceição Calhau, coordinator of the degree in Nutrition Sciences at NOVA Medical School – Faculty of Medical Sciences of the Universidade Nova de Lisboa, explained the importance of realizing whether the person is an “owl” or “lark” .
“With this type of tests we are able to identify chronotypes, that is, who is more lark or more owl, who has their activity sooner or later in the day and this can be important in terms of food intervention because of mealtimes” , he explained.
All of this, he added, “will allow, for example, to realize that anyone who is lark and is eating late meals and works at night, genetically is not adjusted”.
Researcher Daniel Luis also recalled that, with a simple collection of cells from the inside of the cheek, made with a kind of cotton swab, it is possible to see whether people metabolize caffeine more quickly or more slowly, which has an effect on anxiety.
As he explained, the test is innovative because it allows crossing the contribution of several genetic markers for a given trait: “We use an algorithm to add the contribution of several genetic markers for a given trait”.
For example, there are several markers that are implicated in the predisposition to a high body mass index (…). Human characteristics depend on multiple regions of DNA. I can’t just look at a gene and say based on this result that the person is predisposed to have a high body mass index ”, he added.
Recognizing that there are weight loss strategies that can work generically for everyone, such as restricting caloric intake and physical exercise, the researcher said that with this test, which is done only once in a lifetime, it is possible to define exactly what the plan is that works best for a given genetic profile.
The team also developed an application with which, from a mobile phone, the person can have access to their data and a list of foods that can be consulted, for example, when going shopping, to choose more easily the foods more adjusted to your profile and that can bring more benefits.
Questioned by Lusa about the importance of knowing genetics for the adoption of a certain type of food, the researcher Conceição Calhau gave the example of the heel test, which is done at birth, “in which a genetic error dictates the need to make a food without phenelanin for at least the first years or in childhood ”.
The researcher said that lifestyles influence – “as when we have a car and treat it well or not, or if we do the revisions to the brand” – but that it is important to know the genes of each one to adjust priorities and strategies.
These personalized interventions “can only be imagined by knowing all the variables of a person, by knowing their genes, their parts”, he said.
Conceição Calhau also stressed that “these tests are important not only in personalized medicine, but also in the area of preventive medicine”: “It is the prevention that will give the survival of the National Health Service”.
Having a good aging is not to have people older with medication, but to prevent them from getting sick. When they get sick, it is always their lifestyle that is not adjusted to the machinery of each one, to the genes ”, he adds.
Nutritionist Teresa Herédia, who has been practicing for over 25 years, said she has been using genetic tests for about a year, on people of all ages, with biochemical analyzes before and after the test, and recognizes that they “help to adjust strategies” .
“I see people who, for example, were resistant to the consumption of complex carbohydrates, because they were very involved in these hyper protein patients (…) and, in practice, knowing what is in their genes, they already have a different opening to adhere to new habits ”.
“And the results are obviously different,” he stressed.
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