A few weeks ago I rubbed my cheek with a swab, slipped it a vial of liquid, and sent my DNA off to be tested. This was part of a service from GenoPalate, a startup that uses information gleaned from DNA to create personalized nutrition plans for users. Having never done any sort of DNA test before, I was surprised at how simple it was: the entire process took maybe three minutes, including creating an online account.
Cut to 10 days later and I got an alert that my GenoPalate report was ready. I downloaded the GenoPalate app, logged in with my email and password, and prepared to get new insights into my ideal diet.
What I found was surprisingly . . . unsurprising. I was told I should eat a diet that’s moderately high in carbohydrates, high in fiber, and has low levels of sugar and saturated fat (but is high in “healthy” fats). I’m likely lactose intolerant (can confirm: yep) and likely not sensitive to gluten. I’m a fast caffeine metabolizer and a normal alcohol metabolizer. I have gene variants that indicate I might need to consume higher levels of Vitamin A, E, and D, among others.
I also got a list of my recommended fruits, vegetables, starches, proteins, and cheeses. These included raspberries, squash, and lettuce, as well as bagels, spaghetti, gruyere cheese, eel, and chicken liver.
Is it fun to discover that my “best” fruits include kiwis? Sure. But after reading through my GenoPalate results, I realized that I didn’t really discover anything I didn’t already know. Basically, the test told me I should be eating a pretty basic healthy diet.
That said, I’m not necessarily GenoPalate’s target audience. I’m already quite conscientious about what I eat and have done a good bit of trial and error to determine what foods make me feel healthy and energized. For someone with a chronic illness, or who suffers from low energy or persistent digestion issues with an unknown cause, GenoPalate’s reports could be more revelatory.
I also didn’t get to try GenoPalate’s recommended recipe service, which, for an additional $30 ($199 as opposed to $169), will give you five recipes based off of your genetic profile. In retrospect, that would have been helpful insight to have. Five recipes aren’t a lot, but they could provide some building blocks for future meal plans and guidance on how to turn the barrage of information in the nutrition analysis (e.g., eat raspberries, not blueberries) into something actionable.
In fact, that’s really the problem with GenoPalate. You can see its potential — discovering which foods to eat to make you feel your best — but right now the technology is too early-stage to be all that helpful for the average person (i.e. me). I haven’t tried them yet, but I imagine services like Viome (which does include recipe recommendations) and Sun Genomics, which also give personalized nutrition reports, are at a similar place. One of the more useful services is DNANudge, which also uses your DNA to guide your grocery shopping outings and push you towards brands that are a better fit for your biology.
Overall these services can give you some high-level information, but they’re not quite ready to be a granular guide. That said, I still think there’s huge potential in the space. As the technology evolves I imagine these services will be able to become more helpful, possibly even linking up with recipe recommendation services as well as health trackers to create a super-curated, all-in-one dietary guide. With these added capabilities, services like GenoPalate could create personalized, shoppable meal plans, and even tweak recipes to meet your health goals (losing weight, training for a marathon, etc.)
If you’re curious about the potential for personalized food and nutrition, then you’ve got to join us at our Customize event on February 27th (next week!) in NYC. GenoPalate’s CEO Dr. Sherry Zhang will be there speaking about biology-driven dining. If you want to come, you can use code SPOON15 to get 15 percent off tickets.