Obesity is a global problem. Extra pounds can lead to a variety of medical problems, including diabetes or high blood pressure. But a new wristband could change how people look at food. It’s the latest techno-gadget in the hunt for good health.
Ever wonder why some people seem able to eat anything but others must avoid some foods? The answer lies in God’s fearful and wonderful design for the human body. (Psalm 139:14) Each body is unique. Responses to foods are unique too. Each God-designed response is part of a person’s genetic code, or DNA. The code makes some people prone to certain diseases—and determines which foods are good or bad for that body.
A new device called DnaNudge uses genetic information to point people toward healthier food options—in the grocery store or home pantry.
“It’s really all about trying to guide people, for once, to actually make the right choices based upon information that their biology is giving them,” explains biomedical engineer Chris Toumazou, DnaNudge CEO and co-founder.
At a DnaNudge store in London, visitors can take on-the-spot DNA tests. Workers swab a client’s cheek to obtain a DNA sample. Based on the sample, a DnaNudge’s “lab on a chip” creates a genetic profile and maps health traits.
Once complete, workers place a personalized “capsule” into the “DnaBand.” The capsule allows users to scan food product barcodes and receive a red (no) or green (yes) response based on their genes.
Red responses trigger a smartphone app to suggest healthier alternatives, such as a less-sugary breakfast cereal or a salt-free snack.
The capsule also considers each user’s lifestyle. If the wristband doesn’t detect enough physical activity, food suggestions change.
Toumazou says the DnaNudge can guide a user in choosing between two similar foods. For him, salted peanuts are green but dry roasted are red. That’s because there’s actually more salt in the dry roasted—a distinction the DnaNudge revealed to Toumazou, who has hypertension (high blood pressure).
Small changes—liking choosing the right peanuts—can reap big results. For Toumazou, the difference over a year could mean about four-and-a-half pounds “of salt in my bloodstream without me even realizing it,” he says.
Not everyone is positive about DnaNudge. Behavioral scientist Saskia Sanderson believes the band’s advice could be misleading. “Somebody could now think that because they’ve been given a green light for a food that actually is quite high in sugar and fat, that now it’s all right,” she says.
Still, Toumazou believes his technology will help people eat healthier.
“This is about behavioral change,” he says. “And giving people an informed choice.”