Are your GENES the key to losing weight? Self-confessed serial dieter tries a plan based on her DNA to see if she can shift those extra pounds... and ends up losing a STONE!
- Rachel Roberts, 47, from Brighton had DNA tested to find perfect diet for her
- Nutrigenomics tests the genes to find out what food and fitness is best for us
- Discovered a low carb regime would be most effective way to shed weight
- She managed to lose a stone in 12 weeks on a low-carbohydrate diet
By Rachel Roberts For Mailonline
DNA testing has long been heralded for its lifesaving potential for early identification of diseases; and in recent years the weight-loss industry has also been harnessing its power to develop new solutions to beating the bulge.
'Nutrigenomics' analyses unique genome variations - there are more than three million differences between every human - and pinpoints which kind of diet, nutrition and fitness programme individual bodies will best respond to in the fight against fat.
A two-year Italian study compared obese patients on the DNA diet to those who simply ate 600 fewer calories a day on a standard regime and found that the former group were more successful. Their BMI decreased by 1.8 points, compared to 1.3 points, and the DNA dieters also gained more muscle – an average of 6.1 per cent, compared to 5.3 per cent.
Nutrigenomics has been used to great effect to help Olympians and athletes achieve their nutrition and fitness goals, and companies such as Gene-ius.co.uk now offer basic DNA-testing packages in the UK for £249.
So, can it really help us mere mortals drop those unwanted pounds, or is it yet another gimmick dreamt up by the weight-loss industry to cash in on our hunger to get slimmer?
Writer Rachel Roberts, 47, from Brighton signed up for three months to find out if she could shed some pounds from her size 14, 11st 8lbs figure.
FINDING OUT MY DNA PROFILE
The cruel days of early January are here and like most of the population, I'm desperate to lose the post-Christmas flab, so eagerly rip open my Gene-ius Elementary pack when it arrives in the post.
After snapping on the latex gloves, I sweep the swab, which resembles an earbud, along the inside of my cheek for a few seconds, before snapping the end off into a test tube, sealing it, and sending it off for analysis.
Around 10 days later, my results are in. The Elementary pack covers the bases, providing a 'Critical Blueprint Summary' and a 'quick start' diet and exercise plan.
The secrets of my genes have been converted into a nifty infographic, and while I can understand some of the obvious ones – a low sensitivity to saturated fat, for example, I'm glad to have my one-to-one session with Gene-ius.co.uk consultant Georgina Ford who works out of the Harley Street Clinic in Reigate.
Apparently, around 40 per cent of the population are guaranteed weight loss by following a Mediterranean diet, rich in olive oil, tomatoes, and a further 40 per cent will shed the pounds by following a low-fat diet.
My genetic markers group me with the remaining 20 per cent, who respond best to a low-carbohydrate diet.
An interesting discovery is that I've got a higher risk of becoming a coeliac. Normally, one in 100 of us will develop a gluten intolerance – my genetic marker raises that risk to one in 35.
Happily, I find out my body has no issue metabolising both caffeine and alcohol. I do love my morning coffee fix, and although I'm not planning to waste my reduced calories - around 1,300 a day - on booze, it's good to know I can have a cold glass of white if I fancy it.
I'm also advised to cut my salt intake and take supplements to boost my depleted reserves of B vitamins and omega oils. Cruciferous vegetables like broccoli and bok choy are recommended to aid my body's slow detoxification process.
The lack of Vitamin D in my system isn't a surprise – pretty much everyone living in the northern hemisphere struggles to get a dose of the 'sunshine' vitamin during the winter months.
WEEKS ONE AND TWO
The diet, devised by sports nutritionists, is ridiculously simple to follow, with a table suggesting daily meal plans for the next three months. You can mix and match if you want, but I decide to follow it to the letter for the first couple of weeks.
I won't be cutting out carbohydrates completely; most of the recipes include ingredients with an LGL (Low Glycaemic Load; anything below 10) to keep my insulin levels on an even keel.
The theory is that by significantly reducing my carb intake, my body will raid its fat stores for energy – and at 75kg, I've got plenty to burn off. It's also a good way to 'reset' the metabolism to prevent further weight gain from carbohydrates; something my DNA type usually does.
During my first food shop, I'm a little alarmed by the reality of the teeny-tiny carbohydrate portions I'm allowed. On an average day, we're talking one slice of a bread, and there isn't a potato in sight.
The plan features protein-rich meals like Asparagus, Bacon and Cheese Frittata for breakfast.
Made with five eggs, four slices of bacon and two generous tablespoons of grated parmesan, I tuck into that for the first couple of days to help stave off hunger pangs. It also helps me not feel too hard done by.
For lunch, options include goats' cheese and pancetta pitta – not unlike something I would usually eat, save for the fact that I'm only allowed 20g of the delicious creamy dairy product instead of the generous hunk I would normally add. Time to dust off the kitchen scales.
Crispy Parma Pork quickly becomes a firm dinner favourite. It's made by stuffing a pork fillet with 15g of feta cheese and wrapping it up with two slices of Parma ham and serving with fried courgettes, garlic, chilli, sun-dried tomato paste, topped with a dollop of fat-free natural yoghurt.
It's as yummy as it sounds, and by adding roast potatoes, it also cuts the mustard when entertaining friends.
WEEKS FOUR AND FIVE
These are challenging weeks. It's perhaps not the cleverest idea to get a new kitchen installed, but I signed on the dotted line long before committing to the diet.
I end up relying on a microwave temporarily installed in my bedroom. It coincides with a desert-dry work spell, a time when I'd usually binge eat to push down my anxieties and fears. A dose of hideous flu floors me for several days, but it proves to be a blessing in disguise, killing my appetite.
After a week of Pineapple and Almond Soy Smoothies for breakfast, Tuna, Rocket and Couscous Salad for lunch and defrosting the dinners I've stashed in the freezer, I'm definitely feeling lighter.
WEEKS SIX AND SEVEN
The DNA results also analyse how your body type responds to exercise. Mine reveal that I can recover quickly after high-intensity sports.
I already walk three or four times a week, and have a morning yoga practise, but Georgina encourages me to download an app on my smartphone to make sure I'm in the fat-burning zone. She also suggests adding resistance training, to help build muscle and in turn boost my metabolic rate.
With my mid-point weigh in looming on the horizon, I'm making sure I work up a sweat on my walks rather than the 'bimble' pace I usually favour.
My clothes are feeling pleasantly looser and I'm delighted to find I can slip into a pair of trousers I haven't been able to wear for a year. They no longer make my thighs resemble sausages desperately trying to break out of their skin.
I'm also feeling generally better and my collar bones have made a welcome reappearance. So, when I hop onto the scales at the clinic, I'm chuffed to discover I've lost 3kg.
Can radio frequency skin tightening treatment make you look slimmer?
Like many women, extra weight sticks to my thighs like pasty Play Doh. To help break down the fat in that area, I'm booked in for a radio frequency skin tightening treatment.
Beauty therapist Karen slathers my thighs, stomach and bottom in a gel infused with camomile and aloe vera – 'to soften the skin and help the suction action' – and sets to work with The Viora Reaction machine.
She moves the nozzle up and down, explaining the process as she goes. Radio frequency waves gently heat the skin, combined with a suction action which helps break down fat and stimulate collagen and elastin. It's a good non-surgical alternative to liposuction.
I feel oddly emotional when I get home later and end up having a good blub – possibly a side effect of the displaced toxins leaving my body. A faint 'join-the-dots' bruising pattern appears the next day, but quickly fades.
The faint discomfort is quickly forgotten, however, when I meet a friend for coffee. I'm wearing shorts and she exclaims, 'Look at you, Miss Skinny!'. It's a kind over-exaggeration, but I'm pleased to be going in the right direction.
WEEKS EIGHT & NINE
Alcohol hasn't been an issue. Until now. During week eight, I'm on a five-day trip in Cyprus and every three-course lunch and dinner is served with local wines.
Although I try to be 'good' for the first couple of days, all bets are soon most definitely off.
Although I'm not exactly mainlining booze, I'm definitely sipping way more than the small glass I should have as an occasional treat, not to mention the bread and cheese.
To try and redress the balance, I swim in the Mediterranean sea every day and walk as much as possible. Returning home in week nine, I stick to the plan religiously, hoping to cancel the havoc wreaked the previous week.
WEEKS 10 & 11
I'm back on track but starting to get a little bit bored, so Georgina emails me some tasty new recipes to shake things up and keep me on track. The package also comes with on-going support, so you can email with any questions or concerns.
I'm on the home straight and I'm thrilled to discover I've lost just under 7kg (or 14lb). That's a steady loss of around a pound a week – a good amount, according to nutritionists. As it's taken a while to come off, the theory goes that it will stay off for longer.
I'm in the 10 stone something camp for the first time in years and it feels good. I slip on my previously snug size 14 navy lace dress and have to cinch it in at the back to tighten the fit.
It's just in the nick of time to hit the beach in Spain for my annual holiday, and I do feel more comfortable and happy in my skin. After six Viora Reaction sessions, my thighs are noticeably slimmer and more toned, too.
Although I can't promise I'll stick quite as rigidly to the diet, especially with mountains of mouth-watering paella and vats of sangria for temptation, only eating carbohydrates once a day has become a surprisingly easy habit to adopt. I no longer crave them, and I feel lighter and cleaner.
Time will tell whether the answer to my weight loss prayers was locked in my DNA all along, but for now, it's working.
Harley Street Surgical Clinic in Reigate Surrey is renowned for its track record of success in aesthetic cosmetic surgery and medical aesthetics. For further information about the DNA diet, visit surreyskinclinic.com 01737 247246.
Rachel's make-up is by Samantha Balmforth. Hair is by Dan Stanley, for Simon Webster Hair using KMS.