I Tried 5 Genetic Tests To Boost My Fitness. The Result?
I have a genetic version that predisposes me for high aerobic fitness. If not it’s low aerobic fitness. I’m not sure actually, because I took two mail-order hereditary checks that interpreted the same spot in my DNA in opposing ways. I should just listen to another test Maybe, which interpreted the same genotype to indicate I’m wired to benefit from eating scrambled egg whites, quinoa salad, and stir-fry poultry on Sundays.
I found myself in this hall of mirrors after taking five of the most popular genetic tests marketed right to athletes – both high-level competition and recreational joggers like myself. Along the way, I endured seven vials of blood drawn from my arm in one sitting. I unintentionally made my internal cheek bleed. And I stumbled upon information about my Alzheimer’s disease risk which i had never wanted to know.
Not a lot of value. As I learned, there’s hardly any solid research about how to interpret genetic markers that relate to fitness on a person level. And there’s virtually no evidence to support how athletes should act on the given information. That’s likely why the info I got back was either dismayingly general – common sense advice like stretch prior to exercise – or oddly (and, to me, improbably) specific, like the menu telling me to eat quinoa on Sundays.
Just deciding which testing to order was mind-boggling. At least 39 companies promoted fitness-oriented consumer hereditary testing this past year, double the marketplace size in 2013 nearly, by one researcher’s count number. I ended up ordering checks from DNAFit, Genomic Express, Kinetic Diagnostics, Orig3n, and Simplified Genetics. The testing arrived in the email over another few weeks.
- Strenuous individual sports (Swimming or Wrestling)
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- Lactose intolerance for the very first time in my life (and I’m a parmesan cheese addict!)
- Heart rate and blood pressure
Each box included a swab and instructions about how exactly to rub it against the inside of my cheek to collect an example of my DNA. Kinetic Diagnostics also delivered me to a nearby laboratory to get seven vials of my bloodstream drawn; I have to have appeared squeamish because the technician asked more often than once if I was OK.
I later learned the bloodstream was analyzed for a portion of the report centered on non-genetic biomarkers, such as vitamin cholesterol and levels. I mailed my cheek swabs to each company back, and waited for my results eagerly. In the subsequent weeks, my genetic information streamed into my email inbox – and, in the full case of Orig3n, into a sleek smartphone app.
I got data tables, graphs – and stock photos of concentrated athletes. Each test reported on between 2 and 57 of my genetic variations, rendered as a two-letter genotype, like AT or CC. Scouring the reports, I felt sometimes like I had been reading a horoscope. I looked for signs of myself that I possibly could recognize: My apparent immunity to tendon injuries. My preference for short sprints over long continuous works. The long arms that provided me an advantage as a softball pitcher – or the thin build and poor coordination that disadvantaged me.