When the GenoPalate scientists conduct a dietary DNA test, the primary way that we can identify your metabolic and nutritional needs is through your gene variants. In addition to providing the code that generates the physical traits that make you who you are, gene variants are also responsible for determining many of the unique nutritional and metabolic habits that influence your diet and lifestyle.
As we continue to serve our customers, our database of genes is constantly growing, giving us more data on how genetic variants affect the human diet. As we learn more, we’re able to offer more precise and accurate recommendations, allowing you to take even greater ownership of your habits and health.
Today, we’ll examine gene variants in more detail, explaining and demonstrating how they affect our health.
What is a Gene Variant?
Gene variants occur when there has been a permanent change in the DNA that makes up a gene. These changes can be inherited from our parents, so they’re present from birth, or they can occur throughout our lifetime. There are a variety of situations that can cause genetic variants, including environmental factors (like radiation or cigarette smoke), or even just an error during cell division.
In the past, these variants were known as gene mutations and were often used to describe the changes that lead to the development of diseases or disorders such as breast cancer, cystic fibrosis, colon cancer, Parkinson’s disease, Crohn’s disease, and so many more. However, these days many scientists use the term gene variants instead since it’s both more accurate how genes influence our overall health and to make the concept less frightening.
5 Important Gene Variants to Explore
There are uncountable known genetic variants within the sequenced human genome – more than 88 million, to be exact! Many of these genetic changes do not impact the functions or development of the body or a person’s risk for disease. However, other genetic variants play a role in a person’s observable characteristics, known as a person’s phenotype, to their predisposition towards certain health conditions or even how they might process a nutrient or react to a certain medication.
In our work, we’ve identified a few gene variants that have a notable effect on our nutritional needs. Here are some of the most important ones you need to know.
The Variant: TCF7L2
What It Affects: Blood glucose
There have been several different gene variants found on this protein coding gene, all of which affect our blood glucose, and how we process fiber or sugar. These genetic variants have been associated with an increased risk for type 2 diabetes, as well as decreased likelihood to lose weight following positive lifestyle interventions.
In short, this gene may make it more difficult for some people to lose weight, even after they implement positive lifestyle changes like following a healthier diet.
What It Affects: Our risk factors for obesity
The FTO gene was first identified in 2007 as a gene variant that was associated with susceptibility for obesity, as well as some types of cancer. There have been several studies done on obesity in individuals of various ethnic backgrounds, and one of the constants between each group was this gene variant.
Additionally, studies have identified certain FTO variants as the common genetic basis behind both obesity and some types of cancer. This indicates that obesity may make an individual more likely to develop these types of cancer.
Knowing that you have this gene variant is useful since it indicates a susceptibility towards obesity that is helpful to be aware of when making diet and lifestyle choices.
What It Affects: How we process some omega-3 fatty acids
This gene variant is one of several in this region that can modify the way that we regulate fatty acid metabolism throughout our bodies. If you have this gene variant, you may be less able to convert shorter chain fatty acids to longer chain fatty acids, leading to the need for more omega-3 fatty acids found in animal protein.
If our bodies become deficient in omega-3 fatty acids, it can lead to symptoms that include poor memory, dry skin, mood swings, depression, and even heart problems. Knowing that they have this gene variant can help an individual better monitor and regulate their omega-3 fatty acid intake.
What It Affects: Our conversion of beta carotene to the active form of vitamin A.
Gene variants found on the gene BCO1 impact our conversion of beta carotene, an important nutrient that our body converts into vitamin A. Depending on the gene variant found on the BCO1 gene, your body may be more or less able to perform this conversion, potentially leading to a deficiency.
Vitamin A deficiencies are very dangerous, as they could lead to reductions in growth, as well as diseases like scurvy and rickets that permanently affect our health and decrease our immune function. Even minor Vitamin D deficiencies can cause serious eye and skin problems if left untreated.
What It Affects: Vitamin B6 synthesis and metabolism
Typically, the ALPL gene makes an enzyme that is critical for the development of our bones and teeth, as well as tissues like those found in our liver and kidneys. Variants within this gene have been associated with significant changes in vitamin B6 synthesis and metabolism, potentially leading to a serious condition known as hypophosphatasia.
If we’re not able to absorb enough vitamin B6, it can lead to skin rashes, mood changes, and a weakened immune system. In some rare cases, this gene variant on the ALPL gene leads to hypophosphatasia, a condition that disrupts the effective functioning of our bones and teeth, leading to weak and soft bones, broken teeth, and skeletal abnormalities, as well as other health complications.
There are many more genetic variants that affect our nutritional and metabolic needs. Want to learn more? You can read all about our laboratory process here.