Personalised medicine is making one-size-fits-all
treatment feel decidedly outdated. Now that genetic testing is becoming more
and more accessible in SA, telling you how your genes react to everything from
medication to exercise, some companies are cashing in on your need to
know what your future holds.
Businesses are diving in, flooding the market with
“personalised” gene tests, health supplements, even beauty products and diet
plans. In theory, these companies match your genes to their perfect-for-you
wares. In reality, most are based on very shaky science. Before you buy, double
check with a pro – a doctor or dietician – and ask yourself:
Where’s the science?
live in the part of history of the genetic ‘panel’ – sections of the genome
that have lots of research supporting them,” says Dr Heidi van
Loggerenberg, co-founder of JOINCIRCLES and
a qualified homoeopath, who’ll be at Women’s Health
LIVE as part of a panel discussion on DNA. “But as research
widens and deepens, more genes will have solid research behind them.”
Certain companies do use the same technology as lab
scientists, but few at-home genetic testing services have been reviewed by
regulatory bodies and most don’t take lifestyle factors into account, says
leading genomics specialist Dr Lawrence Brody. So even if your results are
accurate, they’re likely incomplete.
Read more: Eternally single? This research suggests it might be in your DNA
How safe is it?
a bit of a grey area with these tests. They’re not diagnostic tests; they’re
not regulated at all,” says Danny Meyersfeld, founder of DNAlysis and molecular biologist who’ll also be
talking DNA testing at Women’s Health
LIVE. But the personnel running the tests have to be qualified and
there are two key bodies to look out for: The South African National
Accreditation System (SANAS), which accredits medical laboratories and service
providers, and the Health Professions Council of South Africa (HPCSA),
which registers medical technologists and scientists and anyone with a medical
degree. Also, make sure a company’s website is secure and don’t buy anything
without assurance that your results won’t be posted online.
Read more: 5 serious health
conditions that can be passed down through your genes
Who’s keeping tabs?
with any health practitioner, make sure the professionals are accredited by the
Health Professions Council. If possible, find a doctor with an additional
university degree in functional medicine. For the interpretation of genetic
results, the Clinical Pharmacogenetics Implementation Consortium – phew! –
weighs up the evidence and sets out clinical guidelines.
heading to a compounding pharmacy, ask if they’re Good Manufacturing Practice
(GMP) compliant. It’s a legal term that denotes whether practices are sticking
to good quality standards. Naturopaths, acupuncturists, reflexologists and
other alternative practitioners should be registered with the Allied Health
Professions Council of SA.
Read more: Can your genes
be the reason why you can’t lose weight?
Can I handle the results?
personalised-product sellers won’t offer to interpret results for you; instead,
they may want to sell you “solutions”. Probably not a big deal if you just
found out you’re rash-prone or lacking a B vitamin. But if a test reveals
something serious, you could end up confused or devastated.
“Think about what you’d do with the results before you
take the test,” says Dr Brody. Better yet, get tested through your functional
practitioner, who’d give you a proper consultation, sans the marketing spiel.
In November 2018, we are launching
the first ever Women’s Health Live Festival – a weekend of wellness.
It will be held over 10 and 11 November at The Wanderers Sports Club in
Johannesburg. Think of it as a Coachella of Wellness: amazing speakers,
panel conversations – with more on genetic testing – and interviews led by our
editors chatting to our cover stars, fit family, social influencers and experts
who will be sharing stories, experiences, expertise and knowledge. Get your
This article was originally published on www.womenshealthsa.co.za
Image credit: iStock