Using genetics to customize my clients' nutrition, lifestyle and exercise protocols excites me to no end.
It's like having access information that allows those who are looking for a better quality of life to access this sort of super power that lives within them.
When someone wants to become better but doesn't know how then reaches out for help to gain that knowledge my heart opens up and I respect their desire, financial output for that info as well as the energy they're willing to invest in the process to become a better version of themselves.
I once sat in that same seat. Chronic fatigue, poor gut health, food intolerances, mood disorders and addictions all led me to access genetic testing to understand why my body systems were behaving the way they were.
I learned so much about my health and I forgave myself for so many health issues I thought I had created by being neglectful of myself.
I learned about my inability to detox hormones, digest carbohydrates and even my brain's ability to bind to dopamine (or lack thereof - hello addictions!).
My passion to use genetics to coach clients runs deep and as a holistic weight loss coach I love to share as much as possible with my community about how their genetics may be the reason they aren't able to lose weight and keep it off.
Here are just a few of the 45 genes I test for to help my clients achieve healthy, dramatic and long-lasting weight loss results via personalized nutrition and exercise prescription.
What is 'genetics'?
The dictionary describes it as: "the study of heredity and the variation of inherited characteristics."
It is also described as: "Genetics is the study of heredity. Heredity is a biological process where a parent passes certain genes onto their children or offspring. Every child inherits genes from both of their biological parents and these genes in turn express specific traits. Some of these traits may be physical for example hair and eye color and skin color etc. On the other hand some genes may also carry the risk of certain diseases and disorders that may pass on from parents to their offspring." (1)
Understanding your genetics can be the key to endless amounts of information about how you experience life, both physically and mentally.
Though, it's important to know that by having a genetic test done it doesn't mean that you are 100% going to express your at-risk alleles.
Genetics testing is NOT a diagnosis and there are several factors that influence whether you will actually express the symptoms that the test shows you possibly could.
This is where we get into epigenetics...
What is 'epigenetics'?
Epigenetics is defined as: "the study of changes in organisms caused by modification of gene expression rather than alteration of the genetic code itself."
In other words your environment; what you eat, where you live, the level of stress you experience, how well your digestive system is functioning, how you exercise (or lack thereof) and even aging all affect the way your genes express themselves.
Your lifestyle and environment can either turn genes on or off and send instructions to your cells as to how to behave.
Eating too much refined and poor quality foods? Exercising too much or not enough? Stress levels reaching close to an 8 or 10 everyday?
Then the possibility is there for dormant genes to turn ON and express undesired symptoms if you don't clean up your environment and health.
Preventative healthcare is everything when considering how to use your genetic results to optimize your health.
Is a genetic test a diagnosis?
Most definitely, no. By doing genetic testing it is showing you what you are predisposed to.
By interpreting the results with a trained practitioner you can begin to understand more about your symptoms, how to improve/eliminate them via nutrition, stress management and exercise (epigeneics) and avoid long-term illness by following a custom healthy lifestyle plan.
How can you use genetics to lose weight?
There are SO many types of genetic tests available today and you'd want to choose one specific to your concerns and goals.
If your concern is body composition and athletic performance then a test like the one I use with my clients would be ideal for you.
Here are a few of the points we examine out of the 45 genes we test for:
1. Do you need a calorie deficit to lose weight?
Uncoupling protein 1 is found in fat tissue and is involved in metabolic processes that create energy and then release it in the form of heat.
The UPC1 gene is important for regulating normal body temperature and can impact your RMR (resting metabolic rate).
Research shows that individuals with the GG or GA variants tend to have lower RMRs compared to those with the AA variant.
Therefore, they need to consume less energy to maintain their regular bodily functions.
I often see a requirement from anything from 150 - 650 calorie deficit requirements which can be met via an increase in energy expenditure and/or a decrease in calorie consumption.
By knowing this my clients can make conscious choices as to how to interact with food and exercise daily to achieve the results they desire.
2. Do you need a low saturated fat diet?
Think the keto diet is ideal for you to lose weight? You may want to do a bit of investigation before putting all of that time and energy into a custom nutrition plan high in saturated fats which ultimately may not yield the results you're looking for.
High saturated fat diets are pretty popular right now and there's a TON of controversy with the heart & stroke foundation vs whole food foodies as to whether saturated fat can lead to fat gain and heart disease or not.
I'm speaking specifically about the potential for fat gain here.
The FTO gene is known as the 'fat mass and obesity-associated gene' since it can impact weight management and body composition.
This gene's role in the body is related to metabolic rate, energy expenditure and energy balance.
It is also expressed in regions of the brain that are involved in the regulation of energy intake.
Research shows that specific dietary and physical activity recommendations can substantially help with weight loss and weight management in individuals with certain variants of the FTO gene.
If you carry the at-risk allele for that gene you would do best to avoid foods high in saturated fats and stick to a diet rich in monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fats.
Foods rich in saturated fat:
Foods rich in mono and polyunsaturated fats:
By simply limiting your saturated fat intake to 1-2 times per week and focusing on healthier fat choices, in conjunction with the other lifestyle and dietary changes that may be recommended from this test we can begin to see your body composition drastically improve.
3. Do you have a propensity to crave sugar?
GLUT2 gene: Glucose transporter type 2 is involved in regulating glucose (sugar) in the body. The expression of this gene has been found in areas of the brain that are involved in controlling food intake.
Individuals with the CT or TT variant of this gene seem to have a greater preference for sweet foods and beverages and are more likely to over-consume sugar.
As a holistic nutritionist, I love learning about this gene in particular because I practise with an open mind and want to learn about as many of the contributing factors that cause my clients' symptoms.
For example, if a client comes in with a sugar addiction I'm looking at the following:
If the test shows that my client carries the at-risk allele for the GLUT2 gene we would talk about mindfulness surrounding food choices, how to grocery chop and fill your home for success as well as look at any of the other other above mentioned factors as potential contributors to sugar addiction.
4. How likely are you to feel full after eating?
CD36 gene: The cluster of differentiation 36 (CD36) gene is also known as fatty acid translocase.
It is found on the surface of many cells and is involved in the transport of fat from the blood.
Several studies have now linked variations in the CD36 gene to differences in the perception of the taste and texture of fats and oils.
'Super tasters' tend to be able to detect the taste of fats and oils at lower levels than 'low tasters'.
If you possess the AA variant you are considered a 'low taster' and you may require higher levels of fat in your food to be able to detect the taste of fats.
Consuming too much fat, and the wrong type of fat (saturated vs unsaturated) can be harmful for the heart and can lead to fat gain and obesity.
By knowing that and then consciously choosing which types of fat to eat daily my clients can really hone in on the nutrition they need to achieve the weight loss results they desire.
5. Should you be on a low carb diet?
AMY1 gene: Your body's ability to metabolize and utilize carbohydrates is influenced by many factors. One of them is the AMY1 gene.
This gene determines how much amylase your body can produce to effectively digest and assimilate carbohydrates. Amylase is an enzyme that converts starch and glycogen into simple sugars.
If your count is low (mine is 5 out of 15, very low), chances are you would want to stick to a low starchy carbohydrate diet, long-term.
By not doing so you can potentially run into a lot of problems such as:
Personally, since I've drastically reduced my starchy carb intake I have had a reduction in water retention and fat mass. Learning about my AMY1 count has been one of the single most important factors in improving my body composition and overall health.
6. Do you need more cardio or power based training, and how much of each?
ACTN3 gene vs FTO gene:
The ACTN3 gene looks at whether you would do best engaging in power-based exercise such as Olympic Lifting, Sprinting, Power Lifting or Body Building.
Those with the CC variant of the gene are much more likely to excel in strength based activities based on their their possession of the alpha-actin 3 protein. A protein expressed in fast twitch muscle fibres which are needed for short bursts of intense exercise including sprinting or lifting heavy objects.
We've also covered the FTO gene in terms of saturated fat intake but this gene has also been studied to see its effect on one's metabolic rate, energy expenditure and energy balance.
For example, those with the TA or TT variant have a typical weight loss response from physical activity.
Physical activity of 150 minutes per week may be recommended in the form of cardio as well as 2 days of resistance training in order to see an improvement in cholesterol levels, body composition, weight management, mental health, blood pressure and more.
By looking at these 2 genes I can design programming for my clients that is specific to their resistance training and cardio requirements in order to engage in the appropriate style of training and eating to yield optimal weight loss results.
Who is genetic testing ideal for?
Genetic testing for persoanlized nutirtion and exercise is ideal for those who:
a. Are high achievers and want to perform at their best.
b. Have been eating healthy and exercising regularly but are not achieving the results they desire.
c. Are experiencing chronic illness, fatigue, poor cognitive health and want to learn what foods, supplements and stress management behaviours to engage in to support optimal immunity and health.
As I always say, losing weight isn't just about calories in and calories out and engaging in regular exercise. We now need to dial into personalized nutrition, detox and exercise programs to support our body to find its balance and happy place.
In good health + happiness,
Cassandra Hope RHN + CPT
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