DNA diets are the latest to catch the fancy of health enthusiasts. We talked to Ryan Fernando, the celebrity nutritionist, on the science behind this diet and how celebs are trying it out.
By Monali Bordoloi
Urmila Shah, who is on the heavier side, has tried and tested almost all kinds of diets to lose weight. However, she has not met with much success. One day, she hears about DNA based diets from a friend and is tempted to try it. On further research, she finds out that it is based on how an individual’s genetics reacts with food.
Celebrity nutritionist, Ryan Fernando talks exclusively to ParentCircle on the benefits of DNA based diets.
What are DNA diets?
Eating according to your genetics is a new science. This is called nutrigenomics. Nutritional genomics, or nutrigenomics, provides insights into how each person reacts to different nutrients like carbs and fats and even, to exercises. Here, interactions between genes, food, metabolism and health are studied. Accordingly, eating plans are devised.
So, DNA diets are eating plans based on individual genetic differences. For example, your DNA analysis shows that you are deficient in Vitamin B12. If you are a vegetarian, the amount you are getting from your food may not be sufficient and therefore, you may need to supplement your diet with Vitamin B12.
How are the DNA diets beneficial?
Generally, genetics is used to treat diseases. Now, through DNA diets, it is used as a tool to get insights into the future behaviour of the client towards food and exercise. When we learn about the genetics of a person, we have a wealth of knowledge at our disposal; we can plan and realign the diet plans according to a person’s genetic makeup. Secondly, compliance of the client to DNA based diets is higher because the client understands that this is based on his DNA and how his body interacts with food, genes and exercise, so it is not changeable. However, when a dietitian or nutritionist gives a diet to a client, it is always their perspective on what, how and how much the client should eat.
Over the years, most of the diets have been created by trial and error methods. The popularity of a diet also depends on its success rate. For example, as a nutritionist, if I have resounding success with a particular diet plan for 5 to 10 clients, then I will surely try to bring out the basic parameters of that diet into my diet plans for other clients.
Take the case of blood group diets. I have noticed, over the years that B positive, AB positive and A positive blood groups do not react well to wheat in their diet. So, I started reducing wheat from the diets of clients with these blood groups.
In my opinion, DNA diets are better than other diets, including the Atkins, the Jane Fonda diet, the Paleo diet, the Mediterranean diet or the Kombucha diet, as it takes into account each individual’s unique genetics.
There are many genetic variations which happen across the globe, across cultures or even, within a family. My brother and I are from the same culture, same genetic pool, but we have different reactions when it comes to food. While my brother’s body simply cannot tolerate saturated fats, I can have saturated fats in moderate amounts without any side effects.
There is accuracy in DNA diets because it looks into each individual’s gene interaction with food. It gives you a much more customised approach towards eating.
Are celebrities trying these diets?
Looking good and having a fit body is everyone’s dream, more so for people in showbiz. People from the entertainment industry sometimes must work for 18 hours a day, so having a fit body is a vital part of their professional life.
The nutrigenomics test is quite expensive. It is still not common. Prices will come down as it becomes more popular. The genetics test costs around Rs 20,000 at present. Celebrities are first to try out the diets. As today’s diet and nutrition field is based on cutting-edge technology, celebrities also need to keep pace.
Recently, when I devised a diet plan for actor Aamir Khan, he was pleasantly surprised to know that his foods and fitness are not dictated by nutritionists or fitness experts, but by his own genetics. After that, he correlated some of his diet-related behaviours in eating, to his genes. The same goes for Abhishek Bachchan. We recently changed some of his nutrition plans and he was very happy with the end results.
What are the advantages of these type of diets?
The advantages of such diets is that these are specific and predict the behaviour of your body in the future. For example, my DNA analysis says I do not react well to gluten. However, blood tests are not showing any such gluten intolerance yet. It means that, later in life, when my self-defence systems at the intestinal level begin to fail, I might develop a reaction towards gluten. This, in turn, could lead to an autoimmune disorder. By doing the DNA test, I am doing a preventive or pre-emptive diagnosis, it will help me to stay off gluten right now and prevent complications later.
In a way, this genetic test is like astrology as it can tell what a person should eat or should not eat for optimum health.
What are the side effects of the diets?
According to me, there are not many side effects for any diet if done well. I can tell from my personal experience. As per my DNA analysis, I have stayed away from gluten for the last five years, I can now see the improvements in my health, my irritable bowel syndrome and adult acne are disappearing. So is my dandruff issue. I am fitter now and I can work for 12 to 15 hours a day without feeling fatigued.
However, staying away from one group of food can result in headaches and loose motion. A word of caution: Those who are fond of food will have a tough time in realigning their diet according to genetics.
Should anyone refrain from DNA diets?
At present, DNA analysis is highly priced. That is keeping the common people away from accepting this form of dieting. Otherwise, I don’t think anyone should refrain from it. It’s like saying I don’t want to know my blood group after a blood test!
Some people take the results of this test too seriously and completely cut off some foods from their diet. They should have a balanced approach towards it.
These days, obesity in children is on the rise. I believe, children should be free to experiment with food. There is no need for them to go for DNA tests as it will restrict their freedom to taste different foods. And, if you restrict them from childhood, as teenagers, they may develop eating disorders. Children’s nutritional needs and obesity issues should be dealt with care and only by professionals. One must also know how to take care of the psychological aspects of parents and children when it comes to food and fitness.
Ryan Fernando is a celebrity sports nutritionist and co-founder of Qua Nutrition.
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