Can a saliva-based test help you turn fit and healthy?

So far, people have been approaching healthy living from a one-size-fits-all approach, which may not be applicable to everyone. It is because the root of the problem differs with everyone - for one it may be the result of a sedentary lifestyle, for another it may be a metabolic issue or a hormonal imbalance.
Representative Image
Representative Image

NEW DELHI: Radha (name changed), a 25-year-old techie from Bangalore, has been trying multiple fad diets to lose weight. But nothing seemed to work. A chance search on google informed her about a new saliva-based DNA wellness test that gives a snapshot of the genetic response pertaining to weight management, nutrition as well as fitness training.

Intrigued, she undertook the test that gave her suggestions on diet, detox, fitness and weight - all rolled into one. Radha is not alone, DNA profiling is helping scores of people transform their personal care in India.

Once known for only decoding hard-to-treat diseases like tuberculosis and cancer, DNA profiling is now helping people provide an insightful approach to a healthier lifestyle.

"Genetic testing has come to India, with an increasing number of tests being done here and a lot of them costing half as much as they did five years ago. Genetic testing is being used for a variety of purposes -- right from confirming a diagnosis, checking someone's predisposition to a disease to deciding the course of treatment for certain diseases/disorders," Anand. K, CEO, SRL Diagnostics, told IANS.

SRL's wellness test covers four critical aspects of wellness - diet, weight, skin, fitness and detoxification. It analyses genetic data for several hundred DNA sequence variations and helps unlock lifestyle tailored specifically to the customer.

So far, people have been approaching healthy living from a one-size-fits-all approach, which may not be applicable to everyone. It is because the root of the problem differs with everyone - for one it may be the result of a sedentary lifestyle, for another it may be a metabolic issue or a hormonal imbalance.

A genetic test, on the other hand, essentially provides information about a person's genes and chromosomes and helps identify the exact problem and suggest changes. Besides providing better and accurate results, it also eliminates the need for unnecessary check-ups and screenings. These tests also analyse a person's response to drugs in terms of efficacy and risk for adverse reactions.

"You could be following the same diet, exercises, routine as one of your friends, but still not achieve the same result. It gives you the understanding to know about your personal diet, vitamins, exercises, weight loss pattern, alcohol, caffeine and nicotine dependency and 40+ genetic lifestyle parameters through your own genetic makeup," Neeraj Gupta, Founder and CEO, Genes2Me, told IANS.

Genes2Me's tests give personalised information on important lifestyle traits, exercise plans, nutrient requirements, metabolites, eating behaviour, food reaction, body and weight.

While the uptake of these tests may be slow to the common man, with the pandemic, personal genomics has been getting a lot of attention in India.

"During the pandemic, people got to know about terminologies like genome and DNA and genes, role of genes, the awareness on such aspects have become much bigger and larger as compared to it used to be a few years ago," Gupta said.

"While DNA profiling is still new in India, people have become more and more proactive towards their health and wellness, and have thus slowly found liking towards personal genomics and genetic testing. Genetic industry - mainly personal genomics is getting a lot of attention in India. Today, healthcare and wellness are important for people and they are willing to use the tech available to ensure their wellbeing," added Sujeeth Nair, Chief Marketing Officer And Business Head at OhMyGene.

OhMyGene is a molecular diagnostic initiative by Sagenome, a Kerala-based genomics company that has a comprehensive personalised genetic test designed to check more than 8000 genes to understand one's susceptibility to 200 plus health conditions which also includes predisposition for lifestyle traits and genetic diseases/disorders.

"Most of these genetic tests are available in India within a cost range of Rs 5,000 to Rs 60,000 per test. The ease of doing this test with just providing one's saliva sample and the turnaround time of getting the reports has also contributed to the momentum at which genetic testing is blooming in India," Nair told IANS.

Also, the number of tests being done has increased manifold and a lot of them actually cost half as much as they did a few years ago, which will be proof of an iridescent future of genetic testing in India.

"It is a once in a lifetime test. It's not that you have to do that again and again. Thus, it can always begin from the pocket friendly range from Rs 5,000-6,000 rupees and it goes up to 20 25,000 depending upon what you want to do," Gupta said.

It is also modular, one can actually add bits and pieces to it and to the level of information you want to get and you can keep on adding it every year, he noted.

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