Factor reviews: FitnessGenes fitness DNA analysis

FitnessGenes is a genetic testing service that analyses your DNA and tells you how to optimise your training and nutrition based on your genetic blueprint to help reach weight loss and fitness goals.

The process is pretty straightforward: You order your test kit, get it delivered, spit into a tube, seal it and send it back. Meanwhile you enter your lifestyle data and training goals into the company’s online portal, and within two to three weeks you receive the results of your DNA analysis (which is done by a certified lab in the UK) along with personalised training and nutrition recommendations.

FitnessGenes analyses 41 genetic variations, looking at various genes that impact your training, metabolism and nutritional needs. This includes genes relating to muscle strength, adrenaline signalling, blood pressure regulation, energy production, metabolism, fatigue and recovery, fat and carb processing, to name a just a few.

In isolation, the results of the DNA test read a bit like a science textbook, and if you haven’t done any biology since school you may get lost in the jargon pretty quickly. However, FitnessGenes interprets the results and turns them into recommended actions, so you don’t have to study sports science or nutrition to make sense of it all.

DNA-assisted training and nutrition strategies

The analysis package comes with a ‘personal action blueprint’ of training and nutrition strategies that suit your genetic profile. If you know your basics, you can build a workout programme based on that – or you can pay FitnessGenes to do it for you. Upgrade options for ‘premium genetic training programmes’ come in a range of packages – get fit, get lean, lose weight, build muscle and celebrity coaches – with a price range of £29 to £229 and a duration of four to 24 weeks.

Premium plans were not included in our review package, so let’s take a look at what you get if you buy only the DNA test kit, which is priced at £129 individually.

Training strategies are broken down into beginner, intermediate and advanced level. Each includes recommendations for workout types and frequency – at beginner level this is as basic as “do a full body workout three times a week”, while the intermediate and advanced levels come with a more detailed plan for hitting different muscle groups on different days, and a range of exercise suggestions.

As part of this, you also get personalised recommendations for workout types and volumes that work well for your genetic make-up, including the number of sets and reps and recovery time that is deemed best for your personal muscle-building or weight loss goals.

FitnessGenes also provides some pointers on how to optimise your strength and cardio training. Based on my results, for example, I’m told that strength training periodisation will help me make continual gains, and that I should to two to three HIIT sessions a week to overcome fat-loss plateaus. However, that’s the kind of advice I’ve been reading on every fitness website ever, so it probably applies to most people regardless of their genetic make-up.

Also in the ‘personal action blueprint’ you’ll find a nutrition calculator with a recommended calorie intake and macronutrient breakdown. Based on your genetic results, the nutrition blueprint will also tell you which meal sizes and snacking regimes work best for you, how to optimise your macros, whether you’re at risk of overeating and how to control appetite. There’s also a ton of general information on nutrition, macros, eating for fat loss and muscle gain, and using supplements.

Finally, you get some information about physiological strategies, including post-workout recovery, blood flow and vasodilation, susceptibility to oxidative damage and testosterone levels (if you’re male).

An example of FitnessGenes’ nutrition calculator results

DNA fitness analysis: how useful is it all?

Overall it looks like FitnessGenes has a pretty good set-up. The DNA test was easy to do – even though I had to do it twice as my first saliva sample didn’t contain enough DNA for a successful analysis.

The results were delivered as promised and the online interface is well-structured and easy to navigate. All content is colour-coded so it’s easy to tell the general info from the personalised recommendations, and a little DNA symbol used in menus helps to quickly identify sections containing personalised content.

The analysis turned out to be a lot more detailed than I expected. For each of the 41 genetic variations, there’s a quick overview as well as a full page explaining the gene and its function in detail. This part comes across a bit science-heavy and intimidating, but the key results are picked up in the action blueprint and explained in context of training and nutrition, where it all makes a lot more sense.

Based on my experience, I’d say FitnessGenes looks like a very useful system, especially if you like to take a structured approach to training and have a specific goal such as muscle gain or fat loss. You have to invest a fair bit of time into reading the results to really get something out of it, as well as being willing to adjust your training and eating habits accordingly. But then, if you’re spending £129 on a fitness DNA test, you’re probably a bit nerdy about your training and nutrition anyway, and will get exactly what you’re looking for.

Factor’s verdict:

Adding stem cells to the brains of mice “slowed or reversed” ageing

Albert Einstein College of Medicine scientists “slowed or reversed” ageing in mice by injecting stem cells into their brains.

The study, published online in the journal Nature, saw the scientists implant stem cells into mice’s hypothalamus, which caused molecules called microRNAs (miRNAs) to be released.

The miRNA molecules were then extracted from the hypothalamic stem cells and injected into the cerebrospinal fluid of two groups of mice: middle-aged mice whose hypothalamic stem cells had been destroyed and normal middle-aged mice.

This treatment significantly slowed aging in both groups of animals as measured by tissue analysis and behavioural testing that involved assessing changes in the animals’ muscle endurance, coordination, social behaviour and cognitive ability.

“Our research shows that the number of hypothalamic neural stem cells naturally declines over the life of the animal, and this decline accelerates aging,” said senior author Dongsheng Cai, M.D., Ph.D., professor of molecular pharmacology at Einstein.

“But we also found that the effects of this loss are not irreversible. By replenishing these stem cells or the molecules they produce, it’s possible to slow and even reverse various aspects of aging throughout the body.”

To reach the conclusion that stem cells in the hypothalamus held the key to aging, the scientists first looked at the fate cells in the hypothalamus as healthy mice got older.

The number of hypothalamic stem cells began to diminish when the mice reached about 10 months, which is several months before the usual signs of aging start appearing. “By old age—about two years of age in mice—most of those cells were gone,” said Dr. Cai.

Images courtesy of the Mayo Clinic.

The researchers next wanted to learn whether this progressive loss of stem cells was actually causing aging and was not just associated with it.

To do this, the scientists observed what happened when they selectively disrupted the hypothalamic stem cells in middle-aged mice.

“This disruption greatly accelerated aging compared with control mice, and those animals with disrupted stem cells died earlier than normal,” said Dr. Cai.

Finally, to work out whther adding stem cells to the hypothalamus counteracted ageing, the scientists injected hypothalamic stem cells into the brains of middle-aged mice whose stem cells had been destroyed as well as into the brains of normal old mice.

In both groups of animals, the treatment slowed or reversed various measures of aging.

The scientists are now trying to identify the particular populations of microRNAs that are responsible for the anti-aging effects seen in mice, which is perhaps the first step toward slowing the aging process and successfully treating age-related diseases in humans.

Self-driving delivery cars coming to UK roads by 2018

A driverless vehicle designed to deliver goods to UK homes is set to take to the road next year after the successful conclusion of an equity crowdfunding campaign.

Developed by engineers at The University of Aberystwyth-based startup The Academy of Robotics, the vehicle, Kar-Go, is road-legal, and capable of driving on roads without any specific markings without human intervention.

Kar-Go has successfully raised £321,000 through Crowdcube – 107% of its goal – meaning the company now has the funds to build its first commercially ready vehicles. This amount will also, according to William Sachiti, Academy of Robotics founder and CEO, be matched by “one of the largest tech companies” in the world.

Images courtesy of Academy of Robotics

The Academy of Robotics has already built and tested a prototype version of Kar-Go, and is working with UK car manufacturer Pilgrim to produce the fully street-legal version.

The duo has already gained legal approval from the UK government’s Centre for Autonomous Vehicles, meaning the cars will be able to immediately operate on UK roads once built.

The aim of Kar-Go is to partner with suppliers of everyday consumer goods to significantly reduce the cost of deliveries, and the company’s goal in this area is ambitious: Sachiti believes Kar-Go could reduce delivery costs by as much as 98%.

Whether companies go for the offering remains to be seen, but the company says it is in early stage discussions with several of the largest fast-moving consumer goods companies in Europe, which would likely include the corporations behind some of the most recognisable brands found in UK supermarkets.

Introducing Kar-go Autonomous Delivery from Academy of Robotics on Vimeo.

While some will be sceptical, Sachiti is keen to drive the company to success, and already has an impressive track record in future-focused business development. He previously founded Clever Bins – the solar powered digital advertising bins found in many of the nation’s cities – and digital concierge service MyCityVenue – now part of SecretEscapes.

“As a CEO, it is one of my primary duties to make sure Kar-go remains a fantastic investment, this can only be achieved by our team producing spectacular results. We can’t wait to show the world what we produce,” he said.

“We have a stellar team who are excited to have begun working on what we believe will probably be the best autonomous delivery vehicle in the world. For instance, our multi-award winning lead vehicle designer is part of the World Championship winning Brabham Formula One design team, and also spent years as a Design Engineer at McLaren.”