‘Understanding my DNA helped me make positive changes to my health and wellbeing’

15 April 2019 . United Kingdom

Bupa UK launched new health testing kit SmartDNA last month. The kit analyses how an individual’s genetic makeup may respond to certain lifestyle behaviours such as stress, caffeine, alcohol and quality of sleep. Gemma Harper, a Bupa UK Health Advisor, tried out the testing kit. Here she shares her experience and how understanding her DNA has helped her make positive changes to her health and wellbeing.
Health advisor Gemma Harper

"Bupa UK has recently launched a new product called SmartDNA which examines your genetic composition using a home kit mouth swab in relation to – eating smarter, moving smarter and thinking smarter. The test looks at key markers and a selection of genetic variants are analysed. The variant you hold is known as an allele, and depending on which variation you possess, it can report on the strength of its association with each of the SmartDNA markers.

I have tested the product out to gain more of an understanding and to determine what benefits they could bring to Bupa customers. I received the kit in the post and I was able to complete the mouth swab at home and send it in the post within the same day – very quick and stress-free! Within two days I received an email informing me that the lab had received my kit and my results would be available within the next 15 working days. However, I received my results in six working days – much less time than I had anticipated.

I logged into the portal and was instantly impressed with the simplicity of the layout of the results and the use of infographics. It was split into the relevant sections and gave me a brief overview of how to use the report.

I started off by having a look at my ‘Eat Smart’ results. The nutrition aspect was split into various additional sections including carbohydrate sensitivity, antioxidant need, saturated fat sensitivity, alcohol response and caffeine sensitivity. I was intrigued to see if the results matched up to what I had originally thought. The first result that stood out was my high sensitivity to carbohydrates which indicates that my genotype creates the most increased impact on short term glucose fluctuations. Therefore, highlighting the benefit to ensuring my diet is lower on refined carbohydrate than others. Whilst I am not a coffee or tea drinker, I was intrigued to gain more of an insight into my caffeine sensitivity. My results suggest that I have a higher sensitivity which indicates that I have a slower metabolism when it comes to caffeine.

The next section was based on ‘Moving Smarter’ and although our physical fitness is based on nurture, it is also based on nature – our inherited traits. Using this data can be valuable in having workouts that are most suitable to ourselves. One of my results within this section was my very fast response to post-exercise recovery. The advice based on this was that I could even try occasional higher frequency training periods to gain further training adaptations. Another result I received was that my genetic result places me at a higher risk of sports-related soft tissue injury. This is something that I expected, and it has further highlighted the benefits of stretching pre and post exercise.

The final section was titled ‘Thinking Smarter’ and gave me more of an insight into my body’s sleep and stress needs. It was to no surprise that my results suggest I have a raised tolerance to stress. Which reflects my ability to tolerate and adapt to unfavourable, stressful situations. An additional interesting result was regarding my genetic chronotype. This influences our circadian rhythm (internal clock) and showed that I have a night owl bias. Using this data can help you to plan your day to suit your biological makeup – such as having more demanding tasks scheduled for later on in the day.

With the growing development of science, we can gain more unique and personalised data to help improve our lifestyles. The Bupa SmartDNA kit supports this and has enabled me to gain an in-depth view of my genetic profile and how this can be used to make positive changes to my health and wellbeing."