The DNA Test That Tells You What Not to Eat

January 31, 2018 | Bloomberg | Portfolio
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Hong Konger David Leung is spurning white rice and eating fish thrice a week under a diet plan inspired by his DNA.

A genetic test in November that came free with an insurance policy revealed risk factors associated with type-2 diabetes and heart disease -- ailments the 54-year-old engineer learned he might be able to avoid by consuming less simple carbohydrates and more fish high in omega-3 fatty acids.

While doctors have long dispensed such nutritional advice to patients with a family history of these diseases, the emergence of affordable genomic studies is giving consumers new insights into how to live healthier lives. It’s a burgeoning market that Credence Research Inc. predicts will generate $340 million by 2022 from $70.2 million in 2015.

Prenetics Inc., the Hong Kong-based biotechnology company that analyzed Leung’s genes, sold more than 100,000 DNA testing kits last year -- five times more than in 2016 -- and aims to double sales volumes this year as it starts marketing directly to consumers as well as through insurers.

“We’ve seen a lot of demand from individual consumers who want our test,” Chief Executive Officer Danny Yeung said in an interview. “We want to democratize genetic testing.”

Global Trend

More than a decade after Mountain View, California-based 23andMe Inc. began offering genetic testing and interpretation to individual consumers, the market is “fast becoming mainstream, thanks to falling prices, better marketing and distribution, and positive regulatory changes,” Euromonitor International said in a report this month.

Genetic testing ranks among the research firm’s top-10 global consumer trends for 2018. Companies such as FitnessGenes Ltd., DNAFit, Orig3n Inc., and Nutrigenomix Inc. are offering analysis for genetic variations that affect such characteristics as muscle mass, endurance, fat-burning ability and metabolism.

In Southeast Asia, Singapore-based Imagene Labs Pte Ltd. offers personalized DNA-based recommendations on skin care, nutritional supplements and fitness in packages that start at S$350 ($266). The company aims to raise $15 million in a round of venture-capital financing in the first half of this year, and expects at least a 20-fold increase in sales through new partnerships with spa and fitness chains in 2018, Managing Director Wong Mun Yew said.

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