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Dieting is a mind-field but Rachel may have the answer — and it’s in your DNA.

Hey Rachel, we’d love to know more about the world of DNA and genetics and its relation to the world of Nutrition. But first what lead you to be interested in nutrition?

I’ve always found the human body fascinating and my first degree (in biomedical science) allowed me to understand how inflammation over time caused most diseases. This is was what inspired a nutritional science MSc, which covers nutrients at a biomolecular level and all the fun biochemistry and physiology that comes with it. My personal love of food and wellness led me to continue my studies even further into Dietetics: using nutrition to treat and manage disease.

Knowing what to eat is a total mind-field. What frustrates you the most about diet fads? And which one really gets your goat?

The diet industry is a big money maker that thrives on the fact that consumers want a product or quick fix. This is in addition to heavy marketing of overly photo-shopped bodies that quite frankly don’t exist. This makes people feel inadequate and can really affect peoples mental health and relationship with food. Skinny teas are probably one of the most ridiculous fads at the moment... promising a flat tummy when all they actually do is prevent you absorbing real nutrients and give you diarrhoea – definitely not a sustainable dietary habit. There's also been many unwanted pregnancies from these skinny teas where women haven’t been able to absorb their contraceptive pill after drinking them.

What role does DNA play in how we eat, sleep and exercise?

 DNA is our unique genetic code that we inherit from our parents. It determines our hair and eye colour, as well as the way we individually respond to nutrients, diets and exercise. One size doesn’t fit all and a new science called Nutrigenomics studies DNA and nutrient interaction so we can give personalised lifestyle advice based on your DNA. Imagine two people ate the same exact meal, both individuals would absorb, metabolise and utilise all nutrients differently, this means over time they would have different health outcomes. This is why personalised nutrition, using nutrigenomics is so interesting.

Photography provided by Rachel

In your last talk with us at Old Oak you shared surprising research around caffeine and its effects on the individual. How might a cup of coffee be different for me than for you?

I really enjoyed talking to your community at Old Oak about the world of Personalised Nutrition! They especially found the topic of coffee and DNA interesting. 

We know that different genetic variations determine how well you metabolise caffeine. Researchers at Harvard university found that high caffeine consumption (more than 2 cups per day) significantly increased the risk of a heart attack in people with the slow metaboliser gene. The complete opposite was found in people with the fast metaboliser gene, who had a protective effect against heart attacks with moderate coffee consumption (2-4 cups per day). The crazy thing is its split 50/50 in the population so it’s always good to know which gene you have to protect yourself against heart disease.

Weight loss is something a lot of people struggle with. What advice could you give someone who's tried everything and anything and is still struggling to lose weight?

I’d probably revert back to the idea of diet culture making money because fad diets and made up products. Visiting a Registered Dietitian (RD) who follows ethical guidelines (cannot sell you products and has to stick to real science) will ensure you can trust them! We have the clinical skills to help you lose weight, along with the skills in behaviour change which will be your first step to successful and lasting weight loss.

You could have also been following a diet that your body doesn’t respond well to for. One size doesn’t fit all. Nutrigenomic analysis can highlight a way of eating according to your genes that will get results – you may be genetically predisposed to follow a moderate protein, low carbohydrate diet consisting of high mono-unsaturated fat. But who knows!

You could have also been following a diet that your body doesn’t respond well to for. One size doesn’t fit all. Nutrigenomic analysis can highlight a way of eating according to your genes that will get results

If we come into the clinic to speak to you. Talk us through it, what can we expect?

The first questions I ask are: How can I help you? What are your issues, health goals and expectations of me?

As a registered Dietitian I am trained to carry out a thorough assessment before I give advice. We usually start with a clinical grade body scan where we get to know your body composition, including measures such as the fat around your organs which is a predictor of cardiovascular health. I look through your blood work, take a full medical history and then ask lots of questions about your dietary habits – I’m sure there’s no surprise there.

Education is something I want to always empower my clients with – they leave my clinic with confidence to make lasting changes and look forward to our next session where they can see the results. 

How many sessions would someone need? Is it expensive? 

Everyone is different and people come to me for a whole host of issues, whether that be health improvement, irritable bowel syndrome (IBS), digestive problems, weight loss, anaemia, high cholesterol, support during their cancer treatment and much more. So everyone requires a different number of sessions – we always work out treatment packages that work for the individual and may include video call follow up appointments too. An initial consultation where we discuss follow on steps is £169 – some people only require 2 sessions, others 6-8.

Through your journey you've met thousands of patients. What one take away for good health can you leave us with?

My takeaway message would be to live a balanced life that’s not based on restriction. Try and focus on the addition of colourful plant-based foods, fun exercise classes or walks in the part and always incorporate relaxation methods such as mindfulness into your week. It’s all about balance... do this and instead of feeling stressed, you'll actually enjoy your wellness journey.

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