Speaking at our recent Healthy Ageing APAC Summit 2019 in Singapore, chief supervisor of the nutrigenomic department at TCI Gene Dr Rebecca Chan said that the advent of genetic testing had led to the ability to predict diseases.
"Having an annual health check-up is different from a genetic test - A health check offers early detection and early treatment. A genetic test offers early detection and early prevention," she said.
“Genetic testing is done before any symptoms appear.”
She said: “A gene is the physical and functional unit of heredity, so if there is a gene defect, it may affect the functions of our organs, and therefore lead to diseases.
“Chronic diseases do not happen randomly. They are caused by both genetic factors and environmental reasons (e.g. air, water, stress).
“For instance, a single gene defect could result in haemophilia. Conditions like cholera could be affected by environmental factors.
“A combination of genetic and environmental factors could involve more complex diseases such as Alzheimer’s disease, asthma, diabetes, cardiovascular diseases, and cancers.”
Dr Chan said the company was also seeing more people with metabolic syndromes such as hypertension, hyperlipidemia, and high blood sugar, as well as other conditions such as painful joints and sarcopenia.
By 2030, Japan, Germany, Italy, Hong Kong, South Korea, USA, New Zealand and Singapore will become super-aged societies, where more than 20% of their population is 65 years and older.
“The biggest challenge here is not the increased population of elderly, but rather, the need to age healthily,” Chan said.
Food and DNA
Chan said after a genetic test is done, the results would determine the next course of action.
She cited one of TCI Gene’s tests, called G2 genetic testing, which assesses the individual’s risks of 58 chronic diseases such as obesity, type 2 diabetes, hypertension, and is specifically designed for Asians and their genotypes.
The report will indicate the possibility of having any of those conditions as well as generate the possible causes of disease.
For example, if the report says you are at higher risk of developing type 2 diabetes, it will notify you about the potential causes of it, whether it is resulted from defection in β-cell, insufficient secretion of insulin, or interfered sensitivity of insulin.
In terms of preventative steps, Dr Chan said that: “Food and supplements are the solutions to help us modify our gene expression, hence prevention.”
After the genetic testing, TCI Gene company offers lifestyle, dietary and personalised health products recommendations.
For instance, within the same G2 report, if the disease analysed is hypertension, it will provide dietary strategies (e.g. limit alcohol intake, increase fruits and vegetable consumption), and lifestyle recommendations (e.g. maintain healthy weight, exercise regularly).
It will also offer nutritional supplements from its range of products to help the individual to manage the condition properly.
Dr Chan concluded that genetic testing accompanied with a personalised diet plan and nutrition shows great potential in helping to prolong lives and overall healthy ageing.
She said the global personalised medicine market, which includes personalised nutrition and wellness, is expected to be valued around US$2400 billion in 2022.
That is an 11.8% increase from 2012, where the market was only valued at US$600 billion.
“That means many people have paid more and more attention to personalised nutrition and health care.”