In Partnership with Wild Health
The emergence of precision medicine in the world of healthcare has marked a paradigm shift towards a more personalized, holistic, and — quite frankly — effective approach to managing our health and wellbeing. And when it comes to metabolic health, our genetic makeup plays a critical role in shaping individual metabolic processes, and understanding this connection opens up new avenues for truly optimizing our health.
The basis of precision medicine is to tailor treatment and preventative strategies to the individual characteristics of each patient. This approach takes into consideration factors such as a person’s genetics, biometrics, lifestyle, preferences, and environment, allowing for more precise and effective interventions. Unlike the traditional one-size-fits-all approach, precision medicine acknowledges the unique differences between individuals, aiming to provide the right treatment for the right person at the right time.
Understanding the genetic influence on metabolism
The role that genes play in regulating our metabolic processes cannot be understated. Genes influence our metabolic rate, nutrient absorption, and the body’s response to exercise and diet.
More specifically, metabolic processes are the series of chemical reactions that occur within our cells to sustain life and maintain our wellbeing. These processes include the conversion of food into energy, for example, and are crucial for primary functions, such as breathing, circulating blood, cell growth, and brain function.
Genes are segments of DNA that contain the instructions for making proteins, which perform most of the body’s functions more broadly, including those involved in metabolism. Genetic variations can lead to different versions of proteins, which can affect how efficiently these metabolic processes occur. In other words, our genetic makeup can influence how our bodies use and store energy.
Some genetic variants are known to influence basal metabolic rate (BMR), which is the amount of energy our bodies use at rest. Individuals with certain genetic variants might have a naturally higher or lower BMR, affecting their propensity to gain or lose weight.
Uncoupling Protein 1 (UCP1) is a gene that plays an important role in thermogenesis, the process by which energy is dissipated as heat in response to cold temperatures or overfeeding. It is mainly expressed in brown adipose tissue (BAT), a type of fat tissue that burns calories to produce heat. A genetic variation, or single nucleotide polymorphism (SNP), in the UCP1 gene can affect its activity and influence an individual's BMR. Variations in this gene have been associated with obesity, and the ability to maintain body temperature, which is closely related to energy expenditure and BMR.
Our genes can also influence how our bodies process and utilize different nutrients. For example, certain gene variants affect how we metabolize fats and carbohydrates, which can impact our blood sugar levels and overall metabolic health.
The methylenetetrahydrofolate reductase (MTHFR) gene provides instructions for making an enzyme that plays a role in processing amino acids and is important for a chemical reaction involving forms of the vitamin folate (B-vitamin). Variations in this gene, specifically the C677T SNP, can affect the activity of the enzyme produced. Individuals with the TT variant of this SNP have decreased enzyme activity, which can lead to higher levels of homocysteine in the blood and reduced levels of folate. This can impact cardiovascular health and has been associated with an increased risk of certain conditions, including heart disease and stroke.
Response to diet and exercise
Genes can also affect how our bodies respond to different forms of diet and exercise, making personalization in either realm imperative.
With respect to diet and nutrition, variations in the FTO (Fat Mass and Obesity-Associated) gene have been linked to an increased risk of obesity and type 2 diabetes. These variants may influence energy intake, appetite, and the likelihood of gaining weight in response to a high-calorie diet. Individuals with these variants might benefit from dietary interventions that focus on portion control and satiety.
Another gene that informs diet is the APOA2 (Apolipoprotein A-II) gene which has been associated with an increased risk of obesity, particularly in the context of high saturated fat intake. As a result, individuals with these variants may respond better to diets lower in saturated fat.
As far as exercise is concerned, the ACTN3 (Alpha-Actinin-3) gene, for example, influences muscle function, and a particular SNP in this gene determines whether a person has a functional copy of the alpha-actinin-3 protein. The presence or absence of this protein has been linked to muscle performance and the ability to excel in either endurance or sprint/power sports. Understanding an individual’s ACTN3 genotype can help tailor exercise programs to their genetic strengths.
The PPARGC1A (Peroxisome Proliferator-Activated Receptor Gamma Coactivator 1-Alpha) gene — it’s a mouthful, we know! — plays a role in the regulation of mitochondrial biogenesis and energy metabolism. Variations in this gene have been associated with differences in aerobic capacity and muscle efficiency. Knowing this can inform ways in which to optimize endurance training programs.
Maximizing your genetic potential
Acknowledging the role of genetics in metabolic health is only the first step… the next is understanding how to leverage this information to optimize health. Of course, working with a Precision Medicine Physician and Health Coach through Wild Health is arguably the best way to go about it. Putting the principles of precision medicine into practice means personalizing your health care across various key pillars:
- Nutrition: We know that diet plays a crucial role in metabolic health, and a one-size-fits-all approach to nutrition is largely ineffective. Precision medicine means personalized nutrition plans based on your genetic data, ensuring that dietary recommendations align with your individual metabolic needs.
- Exercise: Just as with nutrition, every body responds differently to various types of exercise. As we now know, genetic testing can reveal insights into how your body may respond to aerobic versus resistance training, for instance, helping to create a tailored exercise program that maximizes results and minimizes the risk of injury.
- Sleep & Recovery: On that note — minimizing the risk of injury — Wild Health’s genetic testing informs an individual’s sleep chronotype, informing their sleep needs, peak energy levels, and ideal wake and sleep times. Recovery methods, such as sauna or cold therapy, can also be informed by their unique genetic analysis.
A key difference between traditional healthcare and Wild Health’s approach is the emphasis on lifestyle-first interventions. Everything from modifications in one’s diet, training, and sleep habits, to stress management and alcohol consumption can influence metabolic health and overall wellbeing. Precision medicine encourages a holistic approach, knowing that no one system or intervention will ever work in isolation.
The link between genetic testing and continuous glucose monitoring
While genetic testing provides a snapshot of your inherited traits, integrating this information with data from Veri’s CGM offers an incredibly dynamic and comprehensive view of your metabolic health. Veri offers real-time insights into how your body responds to different foods, activities, and lifestyle choices. When combined with genetic data, this information can be used to fine-tune personalized strategies, ensuring that they align with both genetic predispositions and current metabolic responses.
By integrating genetic testing with CGM, individuals and providers can adopt a comprehensive approach to metabolic health, taking into account both inherited traits and current physiological responses. This synergy empowers individuals to make informed decisions, optimize their health, and prevent the onset of metabolic-related conditions.
Ariana Fiorita, a Health Coach and Registered Dietitian for Wild Health says, “I find a CGM to be particularly beneficial when I’m working with a member that’s already dialed-in to some of the more obvious factors affecting blood sugar, such as food choices (types and amounts of carbohydrates, etc), but still experiencing elevations in fasting blood sugar levels or major energy fluctuations throughout the day. We’re able to modify nutrition choices and meal or snack timing, as well as see the effects of improved sleep quality, types of exercise, and stress levels throughout the day. I believe a CGM is a powerful motivator for individuals, particularly those who need to understand the why behind certain lifestyle changes or those that struggle with consistency. It’s really interesting to watch your own body’s response to various foods and activities.”
In essence, precision medicine represents the new standard of health care, offering an individualized approach to managing overall health, a key component of which is metabolic health. By understanding the genetic components of metabolism and integrating this information with real-time data from Veri, you can unlock your genetic potential and optimize your metabolic health. This truly comprehensive approach enables personalized strategies, tailored interventions, and a holistic view of health, paving the way for a future where healthcare is as unique as you are.
To get started on your Precision Medicine journey, sign up for a Wild Health Membership at wildhealth.com.