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Genomes in the Supermarket

I can no longer shop happily. Representing the first genomics craze to hit supermarket shelves, Sciona, a Colorado based biotech just started marketing a nutrigenomics product called Cellf in supermarkets for about $100. These kits include a lifestyle-assessment and family-profile questionnaire and a cheek swab. Mail in the lot and you?ll get back a genetically personalized recommendation for living healthy. A collaboration with the supermarket chain includes specific advice from supermar

By | December 22, 2005

I can no longer shop happily. Representing the first genomics craze to hit supermarket shelves, Sciona, a Colorado based biotech just started marketing a nutrigenomics product called Cellf in supermarkets for about $100. These kits include a lifestyle-assessment and family-profile questionnaire and a cheek swab. Mail in the lot and you?ll get back a genetically personalized recommendation for living healthy. A collaboration with the supermarket chain includes specific advice from supermarket-employed dieticians. NBC?s Today Show food editor Phil Lempert touted the kits (which come in different ?flavors? for different assessments such as bone health, heart health, etc.) as the wave of the future. Try the past. We reported on these kits almost a year ago when they cost about $400 a pop. And the assessment of the academic community was that they weren?t ready for prime time. Not even close. There have been several observational studies linking nutrient intake and health to certain polymorphisms, but there hadn?t been a single study to my knowledge that prospectively evaluated intervention. The recommendations from both sample reports and real reports that we read were vague, generalized, and largely based on common sense. Such products could cause undue stress for otherwise healthy individuals, and the advice based on genetic analysis is no better than a nutritionist with a good sense of a patient?s family history could give. The only saving grace behind such products is that they might spur someone to adhere to a good diet because they?re kitchy, cool, and cost a lot of money. Lempert effuses, ?Sure, maybe we?re watching a little too much CSI these days. But it?s very likely that we have actually discovered the ?fountain of youth,? and it?s heading to supermarkets around the country.? The only thing more unbelievable than the fact that no federal agency has stepped in to start asking questions about companies collecting people?s genetic and lifestyle profiles is the fact that Today Show producers and editors didn?t offer a single source that would point out the obvious gaps in the research.
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