Why DNA May Help With Keeping Up a Healthy Lifestyle

It's all in the genes.
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Why DNA May Help With Keeping Up a Healthy Lifestyle

While hitting the gym and eating well are the best tenets for a healthy lifestyle, there's something else to consider when it comes to losing weight and living well: your genetic makeup.

Let's face it: how many times have you asked yourself after a grueling sweat session, "Maybe I just don't have the genes for this."

To understand how your genes affect your fitness and health, Organic Authority spoke with Orig3n’s Chief Science Officer Marcie Glicksman to discuss the importance of knowing how your genes work.

According to Glicksman, Orig3n’s lifestyle DNA tests, like Fitness and Nutrition, get critical insights about how genes may impact our lifestyle choices and eating habits, or even how our bodies process vitamins, which can be essential for understanding our health goals.

How Genetics Play a Role in Who We Are

"We are born with our DNA that we inherit from our parents," says Glicksman. "That’s how we get traits that come from our parents."

While there has been a long-standing debate around the relative contribution of our genetics, referred to as nature (our DNA) versus nurture (all of the external factors in our environment), Glicksman says the answer is they both contribute to who we are.

"Our DNA forms the foundation of who we are at the starting point, and over our lifetime the environment continues to modify our minds and body to determine who we are in at given point in time."

Can DNA Tell Us Which Exercises We're Best At?

Yes, and no. While Glicksman says Orig3in include this information with the results from a test ("For example, a person’s results may indicate that they are particularly good at endurance related exercises or activities," she says) there have been a number of studies conducted about how much heritability (a concept that summarizes how much of the variation in a trait is due to variation in genetic factors) is responsible for your athletic prowess, or lack thereof.

Basically, the higher the heritability, the more you can blame genes, rather than your gym routine.

To give you an idea, according to a number of studies, aerobic fitness is at more than 50% heritability. Which means, if your parents were pretty adept at running, chances are you are, too.

Another study found that strength and muscle mass was at 50 to 60%. However, a different study noted that "muscle strength is under a genetic regulation, but also environmental effects have a significant role in explaining the variability in the muscle strength."

So while genes definitely play a part with your fitness levels, don't underestimate the power of putting in those Malcolm Gladwell-approved 10,000 hours to fine tune your endurance or muscular strength.

How DNA Helps Our Body to Process Vitamins From Our Diet

"Even though one may eat a balanced and healthy diet, scientists understand that there are factors such as how well you absorb vitamins from your diet and how well you metabolize the vitamins from your diet that can affect whether you have the right levels of vitamins in your body to be your healthiest," says Glicksman. "Although you may get a test from your physician to measure vitamin levels in your blood or urine, these are just a snapshot in time. Your DNA determines how well you utilize vitamins at more of a foundational level, independent of what your diet is like."

Glicksman says DNA can tell which vitamins we may be a deficient in, but that there be can other genetic and non-genetic factors that control our vitamin levels.

"You can think of your genetics as an important tool for your health. Knowing your genetics can alert you to follow-up on your results with blood tests by your doctor."

What's on the Horizon for DNA's Role in Wellness

According to Glicksman, learning more about your DNA is a "fast growing area."

While we're born with the DNA we have, which doesn't change, Glicksman says when we're aware of a certain tendency, "then certain lifestyle changes can be made. For example, how to prevent weight gain."

"People are realizing that they need to take control of their health and the more that they can learn about themselves, the better decisions can be made," she says. "Knowing your genetics can help a person improve their health, whether that’s discovering that there are more effective ways for training consistent with your DNA, or finding out you may be low in a vitamin, or why you may not quickly recover from exercise."

If you're curious about learning more about your DNA, Glicksman says Orig3n requires a simple cheek swab.

"We also have a very strong privacy policy. We don’t share DNA data with anyone and believe that a person’s genetic data belongs to them."

Orig3n’s Fitness and Nutrition tests, among many others, are available at CVS stores, www.Orig3n.com and Amazon.

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