Genetic testing offers owner’s manual for body

Kellie Caldwell works as a business development and genetic consultant for Advanced Genomic Solutions. The firm offers genetic testing and analysis to match diet, exercise and supplements to individual genetic characteristics. (Business Times photo by Phil Castle)
Kellie Caldwell works as a business development and genetic consultant for Advanced Genomic Solutions. The firm offers genetic testing and analysis to match diet, exercise and
supplements to individual genetic characteristics. (Business Times photo by Phil Castle)

Phil Castle, The Business Times

Diet, exercise, medications, and supplements all play important roles in promoting health and fitness. But how much more important would those roles be if the factors were tailored to the unique genetic characteristics of an individual?

“We really dial it down to a personal level,” said Kellie Caldwell, a business development and genetic consultant with Advanced Genomics Solutions.

The firm offers genetic testing and analysis to individuals and also works with health care providers as well as businesses to promote the well-being of patients and employees. It’s an effort that’s been described as providing people with owner’s manuals for their bodies.

Caldwell works out of Grand Junction and brings to her duties education and experience in genetics, health care and fitness. “It utilizes every single experience I’ve had for the past 25 years,” she said of her position.

AGS offers health and wellness genetic tests. Using home kits, people use swabs to collect DNA samples from their cheeks, then mail the kits to a laboratory. Their genetic material is examined for up to 60 variations that could potentially affect the way they respond to everything from the foods they eat to the types of exercise in which they engage to the medications and supplements they take. People receive a report within two to three weeks and also can schedule a consultation to review the results.

Genes not only determine what people look like — their hair and eye color, for example — but also how their bodies function. While some variations in genetic makeup have little or no effect, other variations potentially could have significant effects, Caldwell said.

Testing and analysis can identify variations that could affect the way people respond to diet, exercise, supplements and medications, she said.

An analysis details the ideal proportions of carbohydrates, proteins and fats an individual should consume to promote optimum health based on his or her genetic makeup, Caldwell said. An analysis also reveals the best mix of strength training and cardio workouts to promote fitness as well as an individual’s capability to use vitamins and supplements to their full extent.

While information about genetic makeup is important, Caldwell said it’s even more important to know how to use that information to improve well-being.

Testing allows people to take a more proactive approach in tailoring their meals, exercise routines and supplements to meet their goals, she said. Recipes and workouts are available to help.

The result is increased success and decreased cost and time associated with generic programs or trial and error.

For some people, that means getting off what Caldwell described as a “roller coaster” of weight losses and gains.

Lance Bennett, co-founder of AGS, put it another way in a telephone interview. “It’s like getting the owner’s manual to your body.”

“It really does take health to the next level,” Bennett added. “You can become very, very exact with this.”

In addition to genetic testing related to diet, exercise and supplements, AGS also offers testing for drug sensitivity and how individuals are likely to react to various prescription medications. In considering 600 medications, the assessment offers one of the most robust drug sensitivity reports available, Caldwell said.

Along with working with individuals, Caldwell said she works with fitness trainers, nutritionists and physicians to help them use genetic testing to help their clients and patients. Caldwell said she also works with business to use genetic testing as part of the wellness programs they offer employees.

Given the increased use of genetic testing for a widening range of applications, Bennett said he expects continue growth for AGS and its services. “The market is just exploding for this type of tool.”

Caldwell said she’s excited about the position she took in January in part because of her passion for using genetics and genetic testing to help people. She said she studied genetics and psychology in college and later handled patient services for the Muscular Dystrophy Association in Arizona. She’s also worked as fitness instructor and operated her own business.