Consumers ‘fit into their genes’ with genomic testing

Reporter: Lindsey Sablan
Published: Updated:

FORT MYERS, Fla. — Genetic testing has recently advanced beyond revealing inherited traits such as hair or eye color. Consumers can now test specific genes to determine how their bodies react to food and tailor their diets accordingly.

Ginny Felch became motivated to take care of herself after her mother had a severe heart attack. To ensure she didn’t suffer the same fate, Felch worked with a nutritionist and signed up for Nutrigenomics Testing, a blood test that examines how her genes affect the way her body processes nutrients.

“I discovered I had an increased risk for heart disease and stroke,” Felch said.

Test results also showed she had a gene mutation preventing her from properly processing folate, a B-vitamin found in many grains and vegetables, as well as dietary supplements.

Sonya Angelone, a spokeswoman for the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics, said this test allows experts to tailor individual diets like never before.

“Looking at genomic testing, we can see how somebody metabolizes protein or how somebody metabolizes sugar and get an idea for their risk of metabolic syndrome, for instance,” Angelone said. “We can see their risk for cancer or even heart disease.”

Only a few companies offer genomic testing, and it can cost up to $200, since it’s generally not covered by insurance. However, Felch considers it money well-spent.

“I’m already experiencing some health benefits, like more energy,” Felch said. “I just feel so much better.”

Some of the companies are working with nutritionists and other health care experts who offer tests to their clients. Other employers who offer testing to their employees are subsidizing the costs with the understanding that employees are saving money in health care expenses.

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