Winter is coming...

It’s freezing cold in the UK and winter is on its way. For many of us, this means less sun exposure, less physical activity, and more infections. It might also correlate with lower motivation and other mental health impacts. The general advice of ‘eat well, sleep well, exercise for 30 minutes every day’ is beneficial but is not necessarily easy to follow. It’s also an example of a ‘one-size-fits-all approach' which many researchers have reported to be less effective than personalised advice. 

The most personal information you can obtain is your DNA, as it’s unique to you. Knowing you are genetically predisposed to a certain nutrient deficiency or a specific condition can be helpful to adjust your nutrition and lifestyle to compensate for this vulnerability. At Lifecode Gx, we often use the phrase ‘Knowledge is power’ as identifying genetic variants and understanding the impacts - need for vitamin D, hormonal response, removal of toxins, or how to optimise heart health or support metabolism - are some of the most valuable things you can learn about yourself.

DNA sequencing has opened the door to personalised approaches enabling a more intelligent approach to health optimisation. Indeed, it is well understood that health and lifespan depends on interactions between genetic and environmental factors.

Not everyone needs to focus on their vitamin A, but you might. If you have one or more genetic differences - or SNPs (short for single nucleotide polymorphisms) - on the Beta-Carotene Oxygenase 1 (BCO1) gene, this can indicate you are less able to convert beta-carotene (the form of vitamin A found in carrots and other vegetables) to retinol (the active form of vitamin A). The most common symptom of vitamin A deficiency is night blindness, where people are unable to see well in dim light, but it can also increase susceptibility to infections (it is important for a healthy immune system), and to thyroid and skin disorders. Individuals with a SNP on their BCO1 gene may need to eat more food containing retinol, so as not to depend on making it from beta-carotene. Retinol is mainly found in organ meats, such as liver, fish oil, eggs and milk. You’re a vegetarian or a vegan? Beta-carotene, found in orange and green vegetables including carrots, pumpkins and spinach, has important important functions as an antioxidant, however if you have SNPs on BCO1 you may also benefit from supplementing directly with the retinol form of vitamin A. 

Vitamin B12 plays a key role in many aspects of health too such as bone health support, DNA synthesis, red blood cell formation, energy and mood. B12 availability can be significantly impacted by genetics. The FUT2 gene SNP is associated with poor absorption of B12 and lower levels, and variants on the TCN2 (Transcobalamin 2) gene can slow down the transport of B12 into cells. As vitamin B12 is mainly found in animal produce (beef, liver, fish and eggs), individuals following plant based diets should ensure sufficient intake either from dairy (milk, cheese) or yeast extracts such as marmite, which are often fortified with B12, of from B12 food supplements.

We’ve all heard that vitamin C is essential during winter. That’s because vitamin C has several important functions, including supporting the immune system, maintaining healthy skin, blood vessels, bones and cartilage, and helping with wound healing. Good sources include citrus fruit, peppers, strawberries and blackcurrants. The SLC23A1 gene is a transporter which supports the absorption of vitamin C and distribution to the rest of the body. A variant on this gene is associated with reduced activity and lower circulating levels of vitamin C. Carriers of SLC23A1 gene variants will benefit from higher vitamin C intake.

What about vitamin D? Vitamin D is a fat soluble vitamin which is best known for its role in bone health. It is also involved in muscle metabolism, neurological function, cardiovascular health and immunity. It is called the 'sunshine vitamin' because the body can make its own vitamin D when skin is exposed to sunlight. 

Whilst sunlight is the best source, vitamin D is also present in a few foods and can be obtained from supplements. Obviously, winter is not the easiest time to be exposed to sunlight and genetic variants can worsen the problem. The GC gene controls the supply of Vitamin D Binding Protein (VDBP) which is important for transporting vitamin D in the circulation while the VDR (Vitamin D Receptor) gene impacts sensitivity to vitamin D. If you have a SNP on one or both of these genes, that increases the risk of vitamin D insufficiency or even deficiency.

A final nutrient to consider this winter is glutathione. Often coined 'the master antioxidant' it helps prevent cellular damage caused by oxidative stress, pollutants, medication, heavy metals, alcohol and other toxic substances. Glutathione can also help recycle (or reactivate) other antioxidants such as vitamin C. The GSTM1 gene is particularly important to support liver detoxification. GSTM1 gene variants can cause partial or whole gene deletion and result in complete absence of GSTM1 activity. If you are in this situation, ensure good antioxidant intake including glutathione (sulphur-containing foods), and vitamins C and E. N-acetyl-cysteine (NAC) and/ or alpha-lipoic acid supplementation can provide additional antioxidant support. 

It's the perfect moment to get ready for this season, which many of us dread. So if you’re wondering where to start, there it is. 

Our Nutrient Core DNA Test assess genes that affect food tolerance (and intolerance), appetite control and blood sugar balance, vitamin and mineral needs, detoxification ability, and susceptibility to inflammation and infection. Investing in a nutrigenomics test will inform and empower you to tailor your diet and lifestyle and supplements to work with genes, compensate for vulnerabilities and play to your strengths. And as your DNA doesn’t change, a DNA test is valid for life.

 Lifecode Gx® is a personal health company, applying the latest genomics science to enable a preventative, proactive and personalised approach to health. We offer a range of specialist nutrigenomics DNA test panels which inform how inherited health risks can be mitigated through personalised nutrition and lifestyle change. Our tests are available from registered health professionals who are experienced in using nutrigenomics testing.

You can also order your Nutrient Core test directly via our Core Package which includes a Zoom appointment with a qualified health professional who is trained in nutrigenomics -

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