As someone whose daily grind involves loads of sitting, eating and feeble attempts to balance a sedentary life with a couple of workout sessions in the week, my interest piqued when I noticed an increasing trend of DNA-based fitness.
As with most global trends, this seemed to have mainly gained popularity in the US, and it drew my interest enough to find out if such a service exists in Singapore. Luckily for me, it does.
Introducing Ori, a locally-based genetic testing service that shares with consumers information about their fitness, nutrition and skin profile based on DNA testing.
You may have stumbled across several Singapore-based sites that offer genetic-based services, but Ori is the only company that processes its results in a local lab (Imagene Labs). Launched in September 2016, it now has seven other labs abroad, and is gaining a fair bit of traction here.
What Is DNA-Based Fitness?
As we all know, our DNA makeup is unique to each person, and there’s a ton of information that can be accessed by breaking it down. What Ori does is screen for variances in one’s DNA to establish, for example, how your aerobic performance is like.
You could always counter that the input of a nutritionist or personal trainer is sufficient, but what these sources can only comment on are manifested symptoms. Ori’s approach is to supply pre-emptive and preventive strategies, so they can tell you what you’re predisposed to, and the likelihood of injury risks or nutritional deficiency.
For most part, the general population would know what ‘eating healthy’ is and that regular exercise comes highly recommended. But real information can be confused with white noise from the media, unsolicited advice from parents and peers, and may not be the best for what we intrinsically require.
Genome-based testing allows you to have a deeper understanding of how to maximise your body’s health, by also highlighting your weaknesses.
Although this type of analysis was previously only made accessible to elite athletes (due to its steep price point), the average Joe can now have a wealth of information about his health for a fraction of the cost.
What Ori Offers
Ori offers four different packages – OriFIT, OriVIT, OriSKIN and OriME – to cater to what aspect of your health you wish to find out more about.
OriFIT (from S$380) helps you discover your predispositions to athletic performance, muscle properties, injury risk and weight management across 15 traits, while OriVIT (from S$380) simplifies your nutrition and provides dietary recommendations based on how your body works. It even provides you with OriVIT+ supplements for 30 days that will help bridge the nutritional gap.
OriSKIN (from S$350) analyses your predispositions to ageing and sensitivity across 10 traits and supplies you with an OriSKIN+ personalised serum to help combat your skin woes. Lastly, OriME (S$150) explores personality traits, behavioural habits and interpersonal tendencies (eg. If you’re more productive in the morning or evening, if you’re more likely to take risks and how you handle stress, etc).
If you’re looking to go for gold and want a thorough insight into how your DNA can affect various facets of your well-being, they also have the OriLIFE+ Starter Kit (S$610) which provides a comprehensive fitness, skin and nutrition DNA wellness test, complete with a 30-day supply of customised nutritional supplements and facial serum.
What Goes Down
The thing about science is that you need some patience to see results and with Ori, the first step is to be willing to part with a small amount of your spit for analysis.
Once you’ve selected and purchased your package from their site (including filling up a short questionnaire about your current lifestyle habits), they’ll send over a kit for you to deposit your saliva sample. Once that’s done, simply ship it back to them and wait about three weeks for the test results.
As I took up the OriLIFE+ Starter Kit, I received a breakdown of what my strengths and weaknesses are in terms of fitness, nutrition as well as skin from a DNA standpoint.
A quick initial glance at my long-awaited results and I was instantly disheartened to see that good genes aren’t my forte, as I have a low propensity for lean body mass as well as high risk for obesity.
I was also really surprised to learn that genetic make up can be responsible for one’s aversion to working out, and as luck would have it, I am on the extreme end of highly likely being a lazy ass.
In addition to that, I have a high risk for muscle damage and overall injury. Wow, thanks, ancestral lineage.
Nutrition-wise, I did learn that I am slightly gluten-sensitive (explains the bloating) and that I don’t take to caffeine very well (also explains the immediate bowel movement after my morning coffee).
But I was really glad to learn why I’ve been prone to fainting spells and dizziness since young, seeing as how the risk for iron deficiency is a real thing for me.
Under vitamin deficiencies, I was really demoralised when I discovered that I have a high predisposition to numerous risks; I honestly didn’t think that area would be an issue.
To be fair, Ori’s analysis is really effective given that they also provide you with diet suggestions on what type of foods you should be consuming more of. The two prescribed to me was a Mediterranean diet as well as a low fat diet.
Finally, for my skin analysis, my genetic details didn’t spare me in this area either, as I have a high risk for collagen breakdown, sensitivity to the sun and pigmented spots. FML, seriously.
A Month Of Damage Control
Receiving my lab results was the first part; now I had to wait another 1.5 weeks for my supplements and curated facial serum to arrive in the mail.
I was excited to begin the month-long journey of sticking to Ori’s advice as much as possible, given that I now know how much healing my body was in dire need of. But I knew that this was going to be quite a challenge given my job scope, where more often than not, my meals are dictated for me.
However, I was adamant to do my best and that meant fitting in exercise regularly, taking the supplements and applying the serum daily, as well as trying to stick to the recommended foods that would benefit my body the most.
I didn’t take to the granulated supplement as it tasted horrid and there was no way to dilute it for easier consumption. The facial serum also smelled funky, sort of like berries that had been mushed with milk and left aside for days (hey, that’s my opinion!).
But I soldiered on and went about the 30 days. As my report stated that I do better with powerful moves as opposed to endurance-type workouts, I fit in more plyometric movements and HIIT (high intensity interval training) routines, coupled with weight training.
I had the Spartan Sprint coming up, and although I’d already completed numerous of these races before, it had been a long time since I trained proper.
With sufficient motivation, I diligently worked out every other day (if possible) and when race day came, I completed it in a rather decent timing and without the assistance of team mates for the first time!
I made it a point to religiously slather on the serum and my SPF BB cream daily to see if my skin tone improved in any way. I knew I already had minor issues with dull, uneven skin tone, so if this habit helped, I’d be really happy.
I’m not sure if it was because I wanted this new-found discipline to really have an effect on my well-being, but within the first week of supplements and regular exercise, I already started to feel like I had more energy. I was significantly less lethargic and could dedicate myself to performing both at work and in my workouts.
Even at work-related tastings, I made a conscious effort to minimise my carbs and go for more chicken, fish and greens. I even gradually learnt to say ‘no’, regardless of how much food was left; I have a terrible habit of eating for the sake of not wanting to waste food.
I was seeing small changes in my body, like less bloating and better sleep. It was hard to tell if my skin had improved but one morning when my mother commented that I looked fairer than usual, I reasoned that it had something to do with my now-conscientious skincare regime.
Does DNA-Based Fitness & Nutrition Hold Water?
They say it takes an average of 21 days to form a habit, and the habits that I developed over the course of the month are still something I’m learning to integrate to the point of ritual, in my daily life. As mentioned before, given my job requirements, eating is by far the toughest entanglement I’ve had to sort out.
But I have to give myself credit as I’ve certainly instilled a little bit more discipline with regards to working out, as well as with taking my supplements. Given that my test report encouraged me to consume spirulina and fish oil, these have become a daily dosage.
My skin hasn’t changed much to the naked eye, but I do notice a slightly clearer complexion, with facial products going on smoother than before.
Have I lost any weight? Surprisingly enough, during the first two weeks, I was down by two kilos. But I’d like to believe that was merely water weight because very quickly, my weight shot back up. The huge difference comes from how I feel mostly – which is a lot more energetic.
If you’re open to trying a new regime that’s actually based on science (and not on fitness trends), I would say this is by far the best thing to go for. Genes by and large don’t change over the course of your life, so this genome-based science works to supplement your existing health situation, so you’ll make more informed choices to enhance your body’s performance.
Perhaps a month is too short a time to see vast results, but I know that if I didn’t have the chance to find out how susceptible I am to all the above-mentioned conditions, I would’ve carried on with complacency. As Ori’s team puts it, “The more you know, the better you can take care of yourself. Why leave it up to chance?”
Expected damage: S$150 – S$610