PER­SON­ALISED HEALTH­CARE AT SA’ S FIRST DNA CLINIC

THE SCI­EN­TIST: Dr Yael Joffe, ad­junct pro­fes­sor of nu­trige­nomics at Rut­gers Univer­sity, di­eti­cian and founder of 3X4 Clin­ics

Women's Health (South Africa) - - LIFE ETC -

Joffe started out as a di­eti­cian but be­came dis­il­lu­sioned by her ed­u­ca­tion. “I felt that it re­ally hadn’t given me the an­swers that I was hop­ing for,” she says. She wanted to know how to pre­vent dis­ease and how nu­tri­tion could pre­vent can­cer. “And then I dis­cov­ered ge­net­ics,” she says. It was the year 2000 and Joffe was liv­ing in the UK, work­ing for a com­pany that op­er­ated in the field. “They had this idea that nu­tri­tion and ge­net­ics work to­gether. I thought they were a bit crazy and I didn’t re­ally un­der­stand it, but it sounded amazing.” In 2004, she de­cided to ex­plore it fur­ther at UCT, where she had to cre­ate her own de­gree us­ing a group of su­per­vi­sors in the fields of nu­tri­tion, ge­net­ics and medicine. “I was the first in South Africa to get a PhD in this par­tic­u­lar area called nu­trige­nomics – nu­tri­tion and ge­net­ics,” she says. For the past 18 years, the di­eti­cian- turned-nu­tri­ge­neti­cist has stud­ied the in­ter­ac­tion be­tween food and genes and helped to de­velop tests that can read that ge­netic data. Now, Joffe’s launched a gene-based clinic, 3X4 Clin­ics. They take a cheek swab, an­a­lyse your DNA and use it to cre­ate a genebased nu­tri­tion plan that aligns your health goals. It’s still brand new, but Joffe be­lieves this kind of test­ing will be stan­dard in the not-too-dis­tant fu­ture. Here are some of the things you could find in your DNA.

DNA dam­age

Know­ing the health of your DNA gets down to the build­ing blocks of every­thing else in your body. “We’re con­stantly ex­posed to free rad­i­cals that cause dam­age to our DNA,” says Joffe. “They make what I call pot­holes in our DNA, but en­zymes come in and fill in the pot­holes so that our DNA is healthy, strong and ro­bust.” Ge­netic test­ing can iden­tify the genes that are sus­cep­ti­ble to these pot­holes and a tai­lored diet plan can pro­vide the nu­tri­ents that would boost their abil­ity to re­pair quickly.

De­tox­ing

We’re talk­ing way deeper than a three­day cleanse. There are genes that cre­ate de­tox­ing en­zymes, but not every­one makes them as ef­fi­ciently. “Imag­ine some­one’s smok­ing next to you,” says Joffe. “How those par­ti­cles of smoke are metabolised will dif­fer be­tween you and me.” The good news: there are changes you can make to your diet to boost the func­tion of detox genes. One way? Eat­ing cru­cif­er­ous vegeta­bles, like broc­coli and kale. “There’s a com­pound in those vegeta­bles called glu­cosi­no­lates that’s able to boost detox­i­fi­ca­tion.”

Hor­mone reg­u­la­tion

Part of what makes DNA test­ing so pow­er­ful is its can­cer­pre­dict­ing pow­ers. “We’re see­ing more breast can­cer than we’ve ever seen be­fore,” says Joffe, who be­lieves it’s be­cause we’re ex­posed to higher lev­els of oe­stro­gen. It’s in the Pill, which we take for 20, 30 years, she says. Then there’s oe­stro­gen en­ter­ing our bod­ies from plas­tic, meat and dairy. Part of what ge­netic test­ing can do is tell you if your genes are ef­fi­cient at clear­ing ex­cess oe­stro­gen. If not, it can give you clues to help you boost your body’s abil­ity to reg­u­late it.

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