Muhdo specializes in personalized wellness, fitness and nutrition through DNA profiling. Their aim to inspire people to live healthy lifestyles with manageable, sustainable changes. We spoke to James Brown, Nutrigenetics Director of Muhdo Health Ltd who shares insights on what you can discover through genetic testing, epigenetics and actions to improve your health and wellbeing.
Could you share a bit of your background with us and how you came to co-found Muhdo?
I was a professional rugby player who unfortunately had to retire at 19 due to a severe injury, from there I went into personal training and nutrition, strength and conditioning coaching where I spent roughly 15 years working with different elite level athletes around the world. I then became interested in reading more about genetics as two of my younger cousins had passed away from cystic fibrosis. Working with high level athletes, trying to improve their health and performance is quite a sobering feeling when you can’t help two of your family members get over something or help alleviate something, so I started reading about genetics and DNA back in 2010. Then fortunate to get my qualification over in Australia, as at that time there were no places in Europe to complete a niche genomics qualification. Fast forward to 2015, I gained my qualification in nutritional genomics and six months later, I set up my first company. Another six months after that, I kept bumping into a gentleman called Nathan Berkley, who is now Muhdo’s CEO, at various health conferences, we set up and Muhdo was born.
Could you tell us a bit more about the difference between the tests that you offer?
First we need to distinguish between DNA results and epigenetic results. The results, which you’ll find from a variety of DNA testing companies will provide you with genetic health predispositions such diet, vitamins and how best to exercise. A DNA test is just a once off test that doesn’t need to be repeated. Where Muhdo stands head and shoulders above every other DNA testing company is that we also provide epigenetic analysis, which they do not. You are able to see how your normal day to day life is affecting your genes and internal health, and then retesting throughout the year and seeing the rate of which you’re aging, with your biological age score, as well as your eye score, hearing and memory ages as well. And crucially, being able to make small tweaks and adaptations to your diet and lifestyle, to try and reduce that biological age.
What have you found is the more common DNA test that consumers are interested in and why do you think this is?
I definitely think it is DNA transform tests, which I’ve just alluded to, is our epigenetic test, that calculates your biological age. It is interesting that the majority of people are unaware that we have two ages, your chronological age, which is the exact number of years you’ve been alive, and then your biological age, which is probably a slightly better reflection of how the cells are aging, and then you can see how your diet, lifestyle and environment are affecting that. As we age, most of our biological processes start to slow down so understanding a biological age, compared to your date of birth, can act as a fantastic barometer of your overall health.
What kind of information can be discovered through your tests and how could this change the way that people live?
Epigenetics is quite a new science, there are various studies that have been done in animals to reduce the rate of which they age. We have a base of about 2 500 consumers and have two and a half years’ worth of data and are getting some fantastic correlations now in relation to diet, sleep, exercise, specifically some interesting points in memory score – people that had the best memory age, were shown to dance regularly, which was really quite interesting. Then a nutrient that is probably fairly popular within the gym world, creatine because it helps to improve your energy, muscle stamina and strength, but has also showed that taking a supplementary dose of creatine every week, reduces your biological age as well so we are finding lots of lots of areas that are aligned to reducing or reversing the aging process.
Are there specific personalized actions that people can take following their results to improve their health and wellbeing?
Yes, with regards to the basic DNA results, we look at 103 different areas. As I mentioned before, that is going to be similar to other companies, we do offer a few different areas in relation to anti-aging, eye health and hearing. But in relation to epigenetics, there are specific points and crucial for truly personalized health recommendations, you need tremendous amounts of lifestyle environmental data, which is unique to each person over time to see why the expression of someone’s genes have changed. You need to fully understand how their lifestyle and environment has affected their genes and health. We are getting to that point now, where we drag a tremendous amount of data in, regarding each of our consumers. To do epigenetics correctly, you need to know what they are doing day to day, what pollution they are exposed to, how many steps they are doing, what vitamins and minerals they are consuming. We pull in all this data and by the end of this year, we’ll be able to give truly personalized information, which goes well beyond “generic” information. As much as generic personalized information is useful such as if you have a specific vitamin or mineral deficiency risk, then you need to be taking certain things that applies generally to all of us, as for you individually, you might need a slightly higher dosage of vitamin D, for instance or you might need to maybe walk 10 minutes more than your neighbor or your friends for example. We are getting to that point now where we can give individualized and specific personalized information.
Do you think that DNA testing and analysis should be standardized into our healthcare systems?
Definitely – but it is a bit of a yes or no answer. It largely depends on how detailed and accurate the results are, there are now probably hundreds of DNA testing companies, but how accurate and specific a company’s results are will differ tremendously, because firstly it depends on how many genes and snips they actually analyze, most are fairly low probably under 100, we look at 1000 targeted snips in relation to health and wellbeing. Then the literature, what references and studies have been used to give that end result because a lot of companies use quite old analysis and what information they subsequently provide you with after they have presented you with a result, so you have a whole spectrum to work along there. I think what we eventually need to do is a combination of genetic, which provides you with your predispositions and a lovely foundation to work off and then epigenetic analysis, which provides you with gamifying it so you can see regularly what path you’re going down, because it’s extremely useful to know your genetic correlation or predisposition for something but as we all know, a correlation only provides half the story as a genetic correlation particularly to health traits is not set in stone. We also need to see the causation and your epigenome to see how your day-to-day life is actually affecting you and see how a particular ailment will develop.