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Ask Tufts Experts November 2017 Issue

Q: Companies can find me the best diet based on genes. Is this worthwhile?

A: José M. Ordovás, PhD, director of the Nutrition and Genomics Research Lab at Tufts’ HNRCA, responds: “The ability to tailor dietary advice based on genetic testing is an area that has been the subject of a considerable amount of research for more than two decades. However, using nutritional genetic tests to identify your optimal diet, such as to lose weight or to improve your cholesterol levels, is a work in progress. Although we have identified several genes that are informative, we are not there yet in terms of providing practical and successful nutritional advice based solely on genetic information. (The same is true for testing to determine one’s best exercise/workout.)

“Still, there are more obvious things that can be detected with such tests. For example, they can indicate whether you are prone to lactose intolerance or whether you can likely drink coffee and still be able to sleep at night (based on your genetics for metabolizing caffeine). You probably have already figured out these things without a genetic test, though.

“If you’re curious enough to test and have the extra money (tests may cost a few hundred dollars or more), at least test in consultation with a health professional, such as a doctor or dietitian, trained in the interpretation of the data. Some tests are available only through health professionals; others are sold directly to consumers.”

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