DNA based menu plan - Legit or more woo?

Ran across this article. Seems science has found that certain genetic markers can guide one to wiser food choices. Is this really a thing? And how do they determine elk is better choice than venison or buffalo?

Some science with a large side-order of woo if you ask me.

Yes, some genetic traits do affect what you should and shouldn’t eat. The genes for lactose tolerance past weaning being a prime example.

But in reality people can do just fine on a less than perfect diet, and frankly, suggesting people dine on things like elkburgers is not going to be helpful to the poor.

These folks are catering to relatively wealthy people who have the money and time to obsess about their diets.

Most of the advice - eat lean meats, eat more omega-3, eat things high in nutrients/fiber, eat less salt, etc. - is advice you can get without genetic testing.

And people with a genetic predisposition to a deficiency in a certain enzyme (G6PDD) cannot tolerate broad beans.
The beans can kill.
For the rest of us they are a health food. This condition is called favism and is common in some Mediterranean populations.

I know lots of poor people who subsist on Elk as their primary source of protein. In fact one of my buddies hunts for all of their meat and between him and his wife get two elk, two deer, two antelope as well as ducks and geese and then trout all summer when they run out of the hunted meat. Of course, some parts of the country its easier to do that in than others.

That being said while genetic testing does tell you that you’re lactose intolerant or need to live gluten free the idea that you have a genetic predisposition to eat elk instead of pork is crazy talk.

It sounds like the sort of idea that might actually be worth looking into - in twenty years or so. The basic idea isn’t woo; but the idea that we can actually go from DNA analysis to your ideal diet on the other hand is woo. Maybe some day, but not right now.

I’m one of the people for whom cilantro tastes like soap, so there is some evidence for a correlation between DNA and diet. Although cilantro isn’t hazardous due to the difference, it is another data point along with favism and other previously mentioned examples.

A sizable portion of the population has a MTHFR gene mutation, meaning that their body doesn’t efficiently convert 5,10-methylenetetrahydrofolate to folate or properly convert homocysteine to methionine. Clearly such a mutation would have dietary impacts.

The company cited in the OP is just one of the firms hoping to capitalize on “personalized nutrition” using extremely slender evidence.

*"Researchers who work in this area told me there’s a huge gap between what we actually know about nutrition genomics and what companies like Habit (a similar outfit) claim to offer.

“We still don’t have the ability to accurately predict the most healthy diet for an individual … with or without the use of genomics,” said Rasmus Nielsen, a geneticist at the University of California Berkeley. As Lund University genetic epidemiologist Paul Franks put it, “The concept is probably not quite ready for public consumption.”…

A systematic review of the research on the impact of giving people genetic risk information in the hopes of changing their health behaviors concluded there’s no evidence this method works.

A 2015 meta-analysis looked at the research behind commercially available “nutrigenomics” testing companies and found there was essentially no reliable data to support the claims these companies make. “As solid scientific evidence is currently lacking,” the researchers wrote, “commercially available nutrigenomics tests cannot be presently recommended.”

In one of the most rigorous tests of personalized diets to date, a 2018 randomized controlled trial published in JAMA, researchers once again found no difference in weight loss between groups of people who were matched to either low-fat or low-carb diets based on their genotypes.

This dearth of evidence is why the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics advises against direct-to-consumer nutritional genomics programs.

“From a scientific perspective, [personalized nutrition] is problematic,” said Tim Caulfield, a health policy researcher who has been tracking personalized medicine since the 1990s. “For most human beings, this information isn’t relevant. It’s not going to benefit us any more than the basic health advice.”

The focus on individual nutrition also has troubling policy implications, Caulfield said. “It puts the lens on the individual as opposed to the society.” At a time when we know many of our chronic health problems — diabetes, obesity, many cancers — are driven by our environments, he added, personalized nutrition programs lead us in the wrong direction."*

Another popular idea involves the concept that we have “dirty genes” which can be “cleaned up” by eating proper foods and taking supplements (which some of the “dirty gene” promoters just happen to sell).

If any of these people have solid clinical evidence that the programs and products they push improve health, I’ve yet to see it.

Well, sure, that works for the rural poor, but most of the poor in this country are urban, now, I think, and about the only things to hunt in their environment are pigeon, rat, raccoon, and long pork. Not too many elks in downtown Chicago.

This sounds like a topic for an upcoming episode of Dr. Oz. That tells me all I need to know.

Except my friends live in a suburb of Denver. Even living in LA I went on deer and duck hunts in the fall. I agree that elk don’t live in Illinois but there are plenty of deer and ducks. Would you feel better if their genetics told them to eat venison burgers? Just as much woo but much easier for the urban poor.

The thing is, I think the notion that your genetics tell you to eat “elk” or “deer” or “bison” in particular is bullshit.

(Speaking as someone who does enjoy deer, bison, and ostrich, and would probably also like elk and a lot of other things - tasty, but not inherently superior or inferior to any other lean read meat.)

I agree with you i don’t see how you could have a genetic proclivity to eat a particular animal. I was just objecting to this particular brand of stupidity being an attack on the poor. I would believe that some people can process fatty meat better for others and that for those people its more ok to eat a big beef rib eye than someone prone to turning it straight into artery plaque. Though, just like lactose intolerance you probably find out you have the problem well before you get the test.

While I don’t have any scientific data at hand, it seems likely that there may be SOOOOME connection between DNA of folks who are descended from different populations and the optimal foods for those people.

As a thought experiment, consider someone descended from hundreds of generations of Southeast Asians, where rice and soybeans have been staples for all or most of that time. Then consider someone descended from the same number of generations of Kalahari Bushmen, eating a variety of meats and whatever vegetable foods they can find, probably heavily weighted towards roots and seeds, but no grains or legumes.

Do you think those two populations might have evolved some to make the most of those foods that are available to them? Probably at the expense of adaptations to exploit ones they don’t eat regularly if at all?

Well yes there will be some connection. The question though is whether using DNA screening of adults with enough wealth to afford it will tell those individuals something about themselves they wouldn’t have already learned through conventional or even old-fashioned medical practices, research, or common sense.

For example I have fair skin that develops radiation burns during the summer months rather easily where I live if I expose myself unclothed for too long. People have understood the basics of how this works for hundreds/thousands of years and what to do about it (though we’ve come a long ways yet in just the past few decades). I could have a DNA test tell me my ancestry is northern European and that I should be careful about excessive sun exposure… but I’ve already known that since I could understand my parents saying “wear a hat and sunscreen”.

We already know enough about basic nutrition to advise people about better dietary choices. But there are rather few “pure” human genetic populations in modern times. As an analogy knowing more precisely what percentage golden retriever vs poodle my mutt dog is isn’t going to influence what brand of dog chow I buy from my choice of about a dozen varieties.

Not so much an attack on the poor as ignoring them. There was also a comment about Whole Foods in the article, too. Clearly, they’re not going for the poor demographic. They want people who shop at Whole Foods, not Aldi (even if Aldi does off things like grass-fed beef and bison these days, along with a much improved produce section).

The owners of this company are using a veneer of science to extract money from their customers.

The gene suspected of being linked to migraine (which I get)? I think of it as the MTHRFCKR gene.