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Could DNA Dictate Your Diet?

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I’m a taste-maker; at least that’s what my mailman tells me. When I opened the door to collect my mail this morning, he looked me up and down and said, “You got your own style, girl. Don’t let anyone tell you not to show it off.” So before Chicago’s elite rush to follow my lead, I want to be clear that although I’m intrigued by GenoVive, a new DNA based eating plan, I am not specifically endorsing it. However, I did speak with Beverly E Swango, a former NASA employee and current GenoVive Director of Product Development to see what this new diet might offer.

Our Town Do animals in the wild naturally follow a DNA-based diet?
Beverly Swango All living organisms essentially follow a DNA-based diet. Animals adapt to their environment or they don’t live to reproduce. Those animals whose genetic makeup best allows them to make use of available food have a health and survival advantage over animals who are [unable] to process the food that’s readily available.

OT What makes humans different?
BS Our diets are not driven by simple availability. They’re affected by flavor, customs, our social interactions, and lately the amount of time we have available to plan, purchase, prepare, and yes, even consume our foods. Each human has a unique body chemistry determined by our genes. In the last decade, scientists decoded the human genome and gave us the ability to study our individual DNA. Identifying an individual’s specific set of gene variants known to be associated with various aspects of weight management helps us choose the best source of fuel. As we explored the association between weight management and DNA we discovered the emerging science of nutrigenomics, the study of how genes and nutrients interact and how this affects our body’s ability to function. Research in this area is expanding daily and is providing us with the ability to make better food choices based on our specific genetic profiles.

OT Mediterranean and Japanese diets are known to be healthy. How does GenoVive compare to natural ethnic diets? Does one’s race/ethnicity tie into one’s DNA and perhaps naturally influence the way we eat?
BS A key point to remember is the Mediterranean diet is health-promoting for Mediterranean populations, the Japanese diet for the Japanese population. We know that aspects of the [both] are very healthy and that the use of monosaturated fats such as olive oil or Omega 3 Fatty Acids found in fish have a basis in their ability to interact with our DNA to reduce the effects of inflammation. In creating the GenoVive diet we studied recommendations by the major medical associations, the RDA’s (Recommended Daily Allowances), as well as ethnic diets. Race and ethnicity play a role into one’s uniqueness, but [are only] part of the story. In working with the program, I invited my sisters to be tested to determine their dietary profiles. I was surprised to learn that of four immediate family members only two were similar in their resulting profile recommendations and that we also differed in our exercise recommendations. Finding that even family members, who share the same genes from the same parents, have different diet and exercise profiles really drives home the importance of one’s unique set of gene variants.

OT Can I expect to have a completely different meal plan than another person since I have completely different DNA?
BS Our current meal plans fall into four categories. Optimal Balance (OBL) - The basic guidelines of the US “Balanced” diet with an emphasis on calories from Carbohydrates, moderate Protein and moderate Fat. Fat Optimized (OFC) – Emphasis on the “Reduction of Fat,” moderate protein, and Carbohydrates as the balance of calories. Carbohydrate Optimized (OCC) – Emphasis on the “Reduction of Carbohydrates,” moderate protein, and the balance in fat. Fat & Carbohydrate Optimized (OFCC) – Emphasis on the “Reduction of Fat and Carbohydrates.” The protein is increased as a result of the reduction of the other 2 major macro-nutrient groups. [All] the meals are pre-assembled into daily menus to assist the customer in maintaining their recommended meal plan.

I'm trying to show you what my mailman so admired. If I could have gotten both feet in the picture you would have seen that my other sock had shamrocks on it. And yes, that is a She-Ra shirt. You're welcome.

OT Does the diet ban any foods?
BS There are no foods a customer cannot eat. There are foods we wish they would not eat, such as foods that contain chemical food additives.

OT Perusing the website, I see nothing that distinguishes GenoVive from your average diet. (i.e. info on nuts, acai berries, Electrolytes and Yoga-- the usual culprits.) If the DNA aspect is so pivotal, why isn’t it emphasized in the literature?
BS This whole approach is cutting edge, so it’s not surprising there isn’t a lot of literature. However, you can expect to see more literature in this area of matching food to our genes because the gene-protein-function relationship is a fundamental principle of living organisms. The magnitude of the problem of populations being overweight or obese is growing, both here in the U.S. and globally. It makes sense to start figuring out which genes are associated with weight management and use the advances in personalized nutrition to begin to match foods to our genetic ability to metabolize them.

GenoVive is throwing a food tasting party August 23 at Loft on Lake. I’m hoping the mailman will agree to escort me. Follow GenoVive on Twitter.

A writer with an MFA in Creative Writing from The School of the Art Institute of Chicago, Sarah Terez Rosenblum freelances for a number of web sites and print publications. Her debut novel, “Herself When She’s Missing," is forthcoming from Counter Point Press. She is also a figure model, Spinning instructor and teacher at Chicago’s StoryStudio. Inevitably one day she will find herself lecturing naked on a spinning bike. She's kind of looking forward to it actually.
IMPORTANT: the official Our Town site doesn't support comments. Join in the conversation by followingOur Town on Facebook and Sarah on Twitter: @SarahTerez

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This page contains a single entry by Sarah Terez-Rosenblum published on August 19, 2011 5:06 PM.

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