Not etched in stone

Not etched in stone

We can’t change our genes but that doesn’t mean we have no control over our health or our future.

Our genes are the basic building blocks of who we essentially are. They govern the way we look, walk, talk and more. We inherit our genes from our parents who got their genes from our grandparents, thus, traits such as curly hair or even diseases such as gout or elevated cholesterol can be inherited.

Inherited conditions such as asthma, certain cancers, cleft palate, diabetes and heart disease involve many factors besides genetics. Lifestyle and environmental factors such as diet and exercise and environmental pollutants play a role in the progression of the aforementioned diseases as well.

Knowing whether you have, for example, a family history of breast cancer or not, is always helpful but there’s a more precise way of knowing whether you inherited the BRCA1 gene that increases your risk of breast and ovarian cancer (in women).

Co-founder, Chief Science Officer and Director of FitGenes Pty Ltd, Dr. Paul Beaver (PhD) sheds light on genetic profiling and their partnership with The Laureate, a wellness centre that provides tailor-made healthcare services based on their clients’ genetic profiles.

Urban Health: What are the advantages of knowing your family history?

Dr. Paul Beaver: Knowing the kind of diseases you may be predisposed to, is an advantage because you’ll know roughly what to do and what not to do. However, there are cases where a family member is adopted so they may not be aware of any inherited diseases that they may pass on to their children.

UH: What are the ways to find out whether a person carries a gene(s) for a certain disease?

DPB: There’s genetic profiling which is a way to provide insight into more than the diseases that may occur sometime during an individual’s lifetime. Genetic profiling can paint a picture on how a person’s body responds to diet, nutrition, exercise and lifestyle. Additionally, a genetic profile can also show how well a person responds to a certain drug which can help with their course of treatment. This is because our DNA (deoxyribonucleic acid), located in all of our cells, sends messages known as ‘gene expression’ to our body which then responds to external influences such as the food we eat and exercise.

UH: What is the procedure for a person to get their genetic profile done?

DPB: Firstly, an individual may want to confirm whether or not he or she carries the BRCA1 gene which could cause breast or ovarian cancer in women. They can visit an accredited centre such as The Laureate and simply give a cheek sample. The sample will then be sent to our laboratory in Australia and its results will be sent back to the medical practitioner assigned to the individual. The results will be condensed into a report with a nutrition, lifestyle and exercise profile which will be explained to the individual.

UH: If someone is found to have a ‘disease gene’ such as the BRCA1 gene, what is the procedure after the results are out?

DPB: It must be said that even if someone does have the gene for breast cancer, the person may not actually get breast cancer. When a person is at higher risk, there are preventative measures that can be done. Cancer and inflammation have been found to be related so the medical practitioner may look at the gene that makes a person more susceptible to inflammation and suggest a lifestyle and diet that lowers inflammation.

UH: Could you elaborate on some of the genes that Fitgenes look for?

DPB: Some of the genes that we look for are the fat burning gene (ADR β), inflammation (IL 6) and C-reactive protein that predicts a person’s risk for heart disease or stroke and cell defence which is how a person’s body protects its cells and DNA from damage caused by oxidative stress. Additionally, we also test for Vitamin D receptors in all cells which is a key player in a person’s bone health, immunity, skin and nervous system.

UH: Why should a person have their genetic profile done?

DPB: To reach their personal health and performance goals! An in-depth analysis that can reveal more than a person’s predisposition to certain diseases but their response to certain drugs, lifestyle choices such as smoking, exercise and diet. Having this knowledge about how your body works levels the playing field because it takes the guesswork out and replaces it with modifications aimed at improving your health.

UH: Who should get a genetic profile?

DPB: Anyone who wants to know more about their health. Additionally, people who have a health goal and who haven’t had much luck with their diet and exercise should also consider getting a genetic profile. A genetic profile will allow for personalised healthcare that a simple health check up cannot do. Health and wellness isn’t a ‘one size fits all’ situation and Fitgenes is partnered with accredited medical practitioners who are able to give sound advice and improve their patient’s health and wellness.

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