Are Vitamins Based on Your DNA Better Than Store-Bought?

The decoding of the human genome has unlocked many possibilities as we understand more about our genetic makeup. Some companies are now offering customized vitamins and supplements based on your DNA. However, are these worth the money?

Key takeaways:
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    Many companies marketing DNA-based supplements have been accused of making misleading and deceptive statements.
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    It is not possible to determine deficiencies or needs for supplements based solely on DNA testing.
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    Any claims made based on DNA testing should be discussed with a healthcare professional.
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    Always discuss starting any new medication or supplement with your pharmacist or doctor before starting.

Nutrigenomics

Nutrigenomics is the study of how one’s genetics (DNA) interacts with one’s diet. This rapidly expanding field has resulted in many companies developing products that are marketed as customized nutrition.

One such product includes testing a person’s DNA to develop a personalized vitamin and supplement regimen. However, do these supplements do what they promise? Are they better than store-bought supplements?

To answer these questions we must understand what these companies are testing for and the limitations of these tests.

Single nucleotide polymorphisms (SNPs)

SNPs are mutations of a particular gene that results in altered functions of the gene. It is these SNPs that companies offering personalized supplements are checking for during testing.

For example, approximately 25% of the US population have a variant (SNP) of the gene that codes for the enzyme 5,10-methylenetetrahydrofolate reductase (MTHFR). People with this variation require folate supplementation above the recommended daily allowance (RDA).

Therefore, the companies offering personalized supplementation would formulate your regimen to contain more folate than someone without the MTHFR variant. By doing this, they claim to maximize nutritional support geared for your specific genetic makeup.

Limitations

However, there has been no scientific evidence that personalized supplements and vitamins produce any additional benefits. They have also not been found to prevent or treat any medical condition.

Secondly, it is impossible to identify a vitamin deficiency through DNA testing alone. Therefore, these genetics-based supplements only identify possible needs. They fail to correctly identify actual needs which can only be performed by a blood test.

Finally, the personalized nutrition and lifestyle guidance provided by many of these companies can be misleading. It is often vague and provides no true guidance concerning medical predictions.

The United States Government Accountability Office has testified in front of the House of Representatives concerning these companies’ claims. They described many of the advertisements and promises as misleading and deceptive. Thus it is important to discuss any recommendations with a licensed healthcare practitioner with training to interpret these genetic results.

DNA-based or store-bought supplements?

When it comes to regulation, neither of these supplements is required to be approved by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA). Therefore, there is no regulatory oversight to guarantee the ingredients and dosages contained in the pills. Thus, from this standpoint, the supplements are not much different.

Without the testing of blood levels, there is no way to determine one’s nutritional needs. Therefore, if the DNA-based nutritional supplement relies only on DNA testing, then it is doubtful they provide a significant benefit over store-bought supplements.

Based on cost, DNA-based supplements are often more expensive and have the additional cost of DNA testing. Overall, these supplements likely do not provide any additional benefits to justify their costs.

The field of nutrigenomics is rapidly expanding and can enhance nutrition and disease prevention. However, the use of DNA testing to determine which vitamins should be taken appears to be no more than a gimmick at this time. Additionally, store-bought supplements are likely to be of the same quality, especially if the supplement has received verification from the USP Dietary Supplement Verification Program. This program verifies the content and purity of supplements throughout the world.

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