Nutrition :: DNA based diet advice

Sciona Inc., a small company based in Boulder, Colo., started offering DNA-based diet advice in 2001. Such tests are available by mail order and on the Internet.

Sciona customers collect their DNA with a cheek swab, complete a diet and lifestyle questionnaire and send it all in for analysis. Sciona encourages customers to review its advice with a doctor.

The company acknowledges that some scientists say it’s too soon to offer such a service, but says its testing is based on solid research.

Testing focuses on 19 genes, and the company is studying others, said Rosalynn Gill-Garrison, chief scientific officer and a company founder.

Sciona’s approach basically starts with standard healthy-eating recommendations and modifies them when genetic analysis indicates a need for something more, Gill-Garrison said.

After a DNA test, Sciona may recommend steps like eating more broccoli or omega-3 fatty acids, she said, or limiting caffeine to protect against bone loss.

Gill-Garrison said studies show that people with a certain version of a gene called MTHFR tend to have high blood levels of a substance called homocysteine, which has been linked to a higher risk of heart disease and stroke.

Studies also show that people with this gene version can reduce their homocysteine levels by taking in more folate, she said. So that’s the advice Sciona customers with that gene version get.

DeBusk, who said she has no financial ties to any of the companies, figures the time for DNA-based diet advice has come.

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