Your DNA is the code to what every part of you looks like. It determines how each cell in your body functions, and it can even dictate what diseases may afflict you during your lifetime. DNA is what makes you, you, and now a San Francisco-based nutrition and dietary service is using that genetic information to determine what food your body really needs.
Habit promises its users “personalized nutrition” based on the idea that diet advice written for generalized groups of people — usually based on body mass index and age — can’t be good enough for any individual with a body so complex.
The service starts with an at-home test kit that requires the client to supply finger-prick blood samples before and after consuming an included “proprietary metabolic challenge beverage” that contains sugars, fats, and carbohydrates designed to replicate the typical American diet. The blood samples are then sent to a lab where they are analyzed for genetic variations and over 60 biomarkers are measured.
These markers and information like age, body weight, height, waist circumference, activity level, and health goals help Habit determine the best diet for each client. Chefs can then prepare personalized meals, and nutritionists, lifestyle coaches, and a mobile app are available to the user for a complete experience. Habit will launch next year, with the test kit selling for $299 and meals costing about $12 to $15 each.
While the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics doesn’t yet recommend nutrigenetic testing as a basis for dietary advice, saying more evidence-based studies are needed to prove its validity, genetic analysis is already a driving force in the study of medicine.
DNA can tell us about the afflictions we’re born with or ones that could develop throughout our lifetimes — autism is linked to mutations in certain genes, serious depression may be caused by multiple groups of genes, and abnormalities in cell development in regions of the brain could indicate a cause of Parkinson’s disease. Genes reveal how we age and offers possibilities for delaying our bodies’ deterioration. Some studies have even used genetic profiling to strengthen athletes.
Perhaps our genetic code can tell us the story of our life before we even live it, but we’re just taking a bit of time to learn how to read it. As we become more fluent in the language of DNA, developments like Habit could use this blueprint to our futures to improve our lives in the present.