DNA Diet: Bogus or Breakthrough?

March 13, 2006 — -- No-carb? Low-carb? Calorie-counting? Those diets are so 20th century. Several experts are saying that the latest dieting trend centers around the humane genome.

Nutrigenomics is the study of food and diet, and how each interacts with specific genes to increase the risk of certain disease. Now one company is offering a home DNA kit to help design a diet with the most recent science.

"This is going to be the most revolutionary new change in nutrition in decades," said Dr. David Herber of the UCLA Center for Human Nutrition.

On the Sciona diet, dieters swab the inside of their cheek to collect a DNA sample, fill out a questionnaire, and send them both back to Sciona.

The Sciona laboratory analyzes 19 genes that affect bone health, heart health, antioxidant and detoxification, insulin resistance, and inflammation, according to the Sciona Web site. Based on the findings, Sciona recommends several dietary changes to counteract the genetic weaknesses.

"I think the kind of testing that can be done at home today, where you take cheek cells and then send them in an envelope, will give you personal information that will make it more likely that you'll make the lifestyle changes that you need to make," Herber said.

Some experts say it may be too soon to tell if nutrigenomics is an effective way to fight fat.

"The biggest issue is that these diets haven't been tested," said Dr. Louis Aronne of New York-Presbyterian/Weill Cornell. "So the question, really, is what happens if you put someone on a diet based on the genetic information? And the bottom line is we have no clue that they will be better."