Wednesday, October 11, 2006

Nutrigenetics sting

While perusing the American Journal of Bioethics, I noticed this really quite amusing piece by Ricky Lewis on nutrigenetics. Some companies are apparently taking samples of peoples DNA and then using the resulting data to try to customise diets to them based on their genes. Sounds like a fairly neat idea in theory, but the Government Accountability Office (GAO) decided to put one such company to the test:
Here’s how the GAO targeted four nutrigenetics company websites. They took DNA from a 9-month-old girl and from a 48-year-old man. Then they concocted diet/lifestyle profiles for 14 “fictitious consumers,” 12 from the baby’s DNA, and 2 from the man’s. For example, the baby girl was transmogrified into a 6-foot-tall, 210-pound 45-year-old man who smokes and doesn’t exercise, drinks a lot of coffee, and eats a lot of fat. The baby also became a 72-year-old woman who weighs 100 pounds and stands 4’9”, regularly exercises, never smoked, doesn’t drink coffee, and eats fried foods. To make it interesting, the researchers also submitted cat and dog DNA but did not disclose whether the cat preferred Friskies to Fancy Feast or the dog Alpo to Purina so as not to tip their hand.
You'll have to read the whole thing, because spoiling the result would really ruin all the fun.