Tap into your genetic code to lose weight and live longer.

You don’t need to look that hard to find examples of how our modern lives are simply out of touch with our DNA. We humans have been on the move with exponentially increasing speed over the last few centuries. And today we have the technological ability to traverse an immense amount of distance with relative ease, hoping over whole continents and oceans in hours. This is something our genetic ancestors would have difficulty even imagining. Speedy human travel often leaves our DNA playing catch-up as we enter into new environments and enjoy the access to types of food that were previously unavailable to our various genetic ancestors. This can often have unforeseen physiological and even dietary consequences.

Just ask the millions of people worldwide who try to have an ice cream sundae or other dairy products that contain the sugar lactose but lack the necessary genetics to metabolize it. They end up suffering from bloating and other uncomfortable digestive issues. The explanation behind why some people cannot enjoy dairy products as adults is rather simple. If your genetic ancestors kept animals in order to drink their milk, then in all likelihood they also gave you the DNA machinery to be able to keep digesting lactose into adulthood. But as we’ve come to see with the explosion of the availability of dairy products worldwide and the dietary problems this has created for some people, we didn’t all inherit the same genetic abilities.

The Saliva-Carb Connection

And it’s not just lactose intolerance that’s encoded in your DNA. You may not pay much attention to your saliva, but it’s a cocktail of signature proteins and enzymes that have been fine-tuned over the generations just for you to begin the process of digestion before your food even hits your belly. Amylase is one such crucial enzyme that’s found in saliva and it begins the process of breaking down complex carbohydrates into simpler sugars. Your body makes amylase from a gene called AMY1, but not all of us have inherited the same number of AMY1 genes. This means that some people have supercharged DNA that results in saliva full of amylase that’s just waiting to cut apart the carbohydrates we eat (saliva that’s turbocharged can have up to 50 times more amylase). And yet some people don’t have any amylase in their saliva at all.

The Genetics behind Carb-Intolerance

When it comes to carbohydrate digestion some of us are genetically turbocharged with multiple copies of AMY1while others are somewhat less AMY1 endowed. This is just like how some of us have the genes to break down dairy products, while others don’t. Again this has to do with what your more recent genetic ancestors were eating. If it was more meat than potatoes, than likely you’ll have less amylase in your saliva today. But if your genetic ancestors were relying more on complex carbohydrates from cereal grains, like wheat and rice, then you will correspondingly have higher numbers of AMY1 in your saliva.

Due to this individual genetic uniqueness, some people may therefore thrive on a high carbohydrate diet while others may need to restrict their carbohydrate intake to arrive at their ideal weight and prevent chronic conditions like Type 2 diabetes.

Diets are not “One Size Fits All”

Most people who lose weight by dieting don’t keep if off over the long term. So how do you crack the so called diet code? By living and eating intentionally and methodically for your very own genes. Yet, it’s not necessary to subject yourself to expensive genetic testing because I’ve developed a functional, at home genetic self-test that allows you to assess your optimal carbohydrate intake level. All you need is a saltine cracker (or a dime-sized piece of raw potato if you’re gluten free) and a timer. You then time how long it takes to detect a change in taste when you’re chewing either the saltine or the potato. The faster the taste changes, the more carbohydrates your genes can handle in your daily diet.

Want to live Longer? Start Taking Better Care of Your DNA

When it comes to genetic aging, the latest complex genetic research can be distilled succinctly: the better you take care of your DNA, the longer you will live. Over time, we all accumulate some types of damage to our genetic material. This is what happens when we get too much UV-radiation exposure for example, when we get too much sun and therefore damage our DNA. We used to think this was an inevitable consequence of life, but thankfully we now know that our genetic code is much more robust, resilient, and malleable than we ever imagined. We are now discovering that it’s even possible to reverse some of the effects of genetic aging.

To accomplish this, we have to do two things. The first is to prevent as much DNA-aging damage as possible, and the second is to powerfully activate your body’s own innate anti-aging system. And we can accomplish both by starting to live, eat and exercise with our own personal DNA in mind. Just remember that as everything happens to you in your life, your DNA is listening and responding to it all. Isn’t it time that you starting taking better care of your genetic inheritance? When you do, your DNA will thank you with a long life lived at your own ideal weight.

SHARON MOALEM, MD, PhD is the author of The DNA Restart: Unlock Your Personal Genetic Code to Eat for Your Genes, Lose Weight, and Reverse Aging (Rodale). An award-winning physician, scientist, inventor, and New York Times best-selling author, his books have been translated into more than 35 languages. He has been awarded more than 25 patents worldwide for his inventions in the fields of biotechnology and human health. Dr. Moalem has served as an associate editor for the Journal of Alzheimer’s Disease. His scientific work led to the discovery of a first-in-class member of a novel class of antibiotic compounds directed against multiresistant or “super-bug” microorganisms such as MRSA. His clinical research in genetics led to the discovery of two new rare genetic conditions. Dr. Moalem’s current research focus illuminates how historical nutritional and dietary choices impacted and shaped genetic differences across human populations.