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On Black Friday week last year, Amazon sold more than one million DNA tests – a clear sign of the exponential growth of the global DNA testing market.
Scientific advances in understanding human DNA are contributing to a better world in many ways, from identifying and preventing disease to tracing ancestry and solving crimes.
Healthwise, this expansion in knowledge has great potential for us all. With so much advice around the best eating and exercise regimes, to ensure a long healthy life, it’s hard to discern the pseudoscience from the science – or even the right science for you.
A so-called ‘super-food’ may turn out to be the opposite of what you should be eating. Following a particular exercise programme may lead to long-term injuries if it’s not right for you.
In a first for the African insurance industry, Investec Life has partnered with UK-based genetics company DNAfit to provide DNA tests to their clients at a reduced rate to help them understand how their unique genetic profile affects their response to fitness, nutrition, stress and sleep.
In addition to the test, the Investec DNAfit inclusion incorporates a consultation with a registered dietician and sports scientist, a core part of the process of enabling clients to put their genetic report into action and gain the full benefit of the knowledge accessed.
“All our data shows that when an individual does a DNA test and they get given some sort of advice, whether it’s nutrition or fitness advice, that adherence is greater and because adherence is greater, they ultimately get results,” says Avi Lasarow, Founder and CEO of Prenetics-owned DNAfit.
Using genetic testing to fine tune your health
It’s what’s under the bonnet that counts
Many of our genetic characteristics are visible – things like eye, hair colour, complexion and physique. However, there are many characteristics that we don’t see, that are ‘under the bonnet’, so to speak.
These include how we metabolise nutrients, or how we react to different types of exercise regimes as well as susceptibility to certain diseases. It’s these ‘unseen’ genetic characteristics that often define us more than our visible characteristics. Indeed, geneticists tell us that these unseen characteristics are usually more complex than the visible ones.
Imagine the potential we can fulfil by unlocking some of these hidden genetic secrets. We could sweep aside all the fad diets and exercise plans and concentrate on the ones that will help us to lead a longer, healthier life.
Modern genetics now allow these factors to be revealed without having to undergo expensive tests. Simple DNA tests can unlock the door to our genetic makeup and guide us directly to the lifestyle choices we need to make.
How DNA testing works
DNAfit provides a testing pack, which simply involves the individual providing a saliva sample and sending it back to DNAfit. The results are shared on a secure portal with the client and clients also have access to two free telephonic consultations with a dietician and sports scientist who specialise in genetics.
These experts will help clients understand their genetic make-up and decide what eating and exercise regimes, as well as what other adjustments in their lives, they could make to ensure the best outcomes.
What the DNAfit test can reveal about you
Your optimal diet type
Your carbohydrate and fat response
Lactose & gluten tolerance
Caffeine & alcohol metabolisation
What vitamins and nutrients your body needs
Your power and endurance response
Genetic stress response
Injury risk & recovery profile
“We believe that genetics is only part of the picture – approximately 30% is genetics, and 70% is your lifestyle - so if we can use the genetics to nudge customers to change their lifestyle, that’s got to be a great thing,” says Lasarow.
Challenging the status quo in the insurance industry
“It is a universal human truth that we all want to have a better life, and if you are empowered with knowledge about yourself and how your body and your genes function and respond to different factors like diet and exercise, stress and sleep, you will use that to optimise and improve your life,” says Sinenhlanhla Nzama, Investec Life head product actuary.
With regards to the privacy and security of your genetic data, DNAfit does not share your personal genetic test results with insurance companies.
Nzama explains: “The results that we get from these DNAfit tests have no bearing on your insurance premiums. There’s no positive or negative [results], it just tells you how your body responds to different things. So, in terms of insurance and how we underwrite insurance, it really has no bearing.”
While clients are empowered with personalised information that will enable them to make better decisions with regard to their personal health and wellness, Investec Life also benefits from healthier clients and therefore reduced risk.
“The biggest benefit for insurers is that if clients are living better lives, it will improve our insurance outcomes. As an industry, we believe that if we move towards more personalisation of this insurance to clients, it will lead to better outcomes for the industry as a whole,” concludes Nzama.
About the author
Lead digital content producer
Ingrid Booth is a consumer magazine journalist who made the successful transition to corporate PR and back into digital publishing. As part of Investec's Brand Centre digital content team, her role entails coordinating and producing multi-media content from across the Group for Investec's publishing platform, Focus.