The Daily Telegraph - Telegraph Magazine
Celia Walden asks, is it all in the genes?
I’M ON AN EXERCISE BIKE in a west London basement, electrodes on my chest, being observed by a man in a white coat. Every so often, he goads me on – ‘Come on, Celia, you’re better than this’ – adding to the sense that I’ve been propelled into some Twelve Monkeys-like future where only the fit can survive.
Over the past month I’ve had my DNA decoded, my brain, heart and uterus scanned, my nutrition, thyroid, hormone and adrenal stress levels evaluated, and a blood-glucose sensor embedded in my upper arm. And as the doctor shakes his head at the numbers on his screen now, I don’t so much feel like a monkey as one of those perma-panting little Shetland ponies. Then again, that’s the whole point of Viavi: to turn me into a thoroughbred.
When I was approached to try the pioneering health management service, which provides a 360-degree evaluation of body and mind before laying out a plan to have you functioning at your optimum for life, I’ll admit I was scared. Yet arrogant. I was both disinclined to be told how much damage I’d done to my body and convinced I was already doing all I could to thwart deterioration, thanks.
I eat the kale, drink the water, take the supplements, wear the sunscreen, do the exercise. But what if there is something intrinsically wrong with my DNA that I’m better off not knowing about?
‘It’s the first domino,’ says Viavi’s founder Dr Sabine Donnai. ‘And if you can keep that one standing, by finding out where the weaknesses in your “coding” are, you’re in a far more powerful position to fight against them and protect your wider health.’
As a leading authority on preventative medicine, Donnai believes the ‘cut and paste’ health plans we draw up for ourselves based on the advice of celebrities and bloggers are laughably ‘random’ and ‘inefficient’. ‘There is no “one size fits all” in health,’ adds executive director Oliver Patrick – who, as my assigned ‘health manager’, teaches me how to do my home tests, takes me to my scans and fills in my forms with me. ‘Which means most of us are wasting time, energy and money on things that may not have any positive impacts on our health.’
On my results day, there are some nasty surprises. Despite there being no osteoporosis in my family, my DNA shows I am at a high risk of developing it. Nevertheless Donnai – who is proactive, not alarmist – explains that exercise and vitamin D supplementation are the best things I can be doing, while Patrick contacts my trainer to advise on the changes she should make to my workouts.
Also, my gut’s not working as it should and I have a certain amount of inflammation, which can easily be brought down, it turns out, by cutting out coffee, which my body ‘doesn’t like’, and… eating sauerkraut.
I leave armed with a tailor-made health blueprint that might just be one of the most precious things I own. With Viavi’s packages starting from £10,000, it should be. But you only need do it once in a lifetime – and what price can you put on knowing yourself inside out? viavi.com