Genetics is amazing. It tells us so much about humanity and it’s a minefield of information. Admittedly, it’s a minefield that has only just been touched upon, but scientists argue that genetics is the answer to everything – so does that include diet and fitness? Companies like DNAFit say yes. They argue that the results of a DNA test will allow you to develop a personal gene-based diet and fitness plan that works for you – and that brings a whole new meaning to the term ‘tailor-made’. It may sound like a futuristic way to develop a fitness plan, and the possibilities are nothing if not intriguing, but there are some questions of the efficacy of these tests. So can they really help you improve your diet and fitness? And are they worth the money?
What They Do
At a very basic level, our genes dictate everything. Like a computer code written into us before we’re even born, our genes influence everything we do in life and how we respond to different external stimuli – and that, of course, includes how we respond to different foods and exercises. It makes sense, then, that a DNA test could tell us what foods are best for us to eat and which exercises will have the best results. Companies like DNAFit are now branching out from working with only professional athletes to providing home-testing kits and the results can provide information about your sensitivity to carbohydrates, salt, saturated fats, lactose, and gluten. You can find out about your specific requirements when it comes to anti-oxidants and vitamins, and your ability to process things like caffeine and alcohol. Not only that, but you can discover which sports suit you best – endurance sports or power sports? These tests even claim to tell you how likely you are to injure yourself during training and how long it will take you to recover.
If you have ever tried to adhere to a new diet or start an exercise program, you have probably experienced the frustration involved in trying to overhaul anything in life you have become accustomed to. It’s been said that humans are creatures of habit, and it’s quite true. Things that seem like they should be simple or easy to incorporate into our schedules somehow become arduous when we attempt to do them regularly instead of on occasion. No matter how much conscious effort we put into changing ourselves, it often seems to have no effect. So it might not come as much of a surprise that often, very little of the conscious mind is involved in how we structure our daily lives.
Have you ever dreamed of lying around on a desert island, soaking up the sun? Well today, around 23.5 million Americans live in the desert. That’s not the idyllic white sands and cocktails type of desert though – in fact, it’s much more sinister than that. They live in food deserts.
Desert Island Dreams
Food Deserts in America are full of dreams of only one thing – easy access to healthy, affordable foods. To qualify as a food desert, then, a geographical location will offer little or no affordable, healthy food options within a reasonable travelling distance. There are more of these areas than you would think. In fact, the U.S Department of Agriculture (USDA) estimates that nearly 24 million people in America today live more than one mile away from a supermarket and have limited or no means of transport. What’s scarier is that 2.3 million Americans are living in low-income, rural communities that are ten or more miles away from retail outlets selling a good range of healthful foods. That’s an awfully long way to go for fruits and vegetables, especially when you don’t own a vehicle and public transportation is poor.
Vitamins and other supplements should help your health, not harm it —in fact; the whole idea behind the campaign to “take your vitamins” is to provide your body with essential nutrients it might not be getting through your diet.
However, there are some vitamins and minerals that may have adverse effects on your health if you take them in the form of supplements, these effects can range from transient and unpleasant symptoms, to severe and life-threatening diseases; in the worst cases, certain vitamins may raise your risk of cancer.