You really are what you eat: the nutrition plan that's based on your DNA

In the second of our series on how technology is taking inspiration from our senses, Audi explores the link between taste and genetics. Tim Heming reports on a project that personalises your diet in accordance with your DNA

Understanding what to eat to stay healthy isn’t the same as finding it appetising, and the endless food choices available in modern life suggest there’s no accounting for taste. Or is there?

One man who believes that we are genetically predisposed to foods that suit both our wellbeing and our palate, is former British 400m runner Andrew Steele, 33. Even if he did have to find it out the hard way.

“When I failed to make the team for London 2012, I looked into my genetics to see what went wrong,” Steele says of the start of his quest to find out what kind of food optimises an athlete’s performance. “I wish I’d had this knowledge earlier, and quickly learnt how it could be of use to everybody who is so confused about fitness. That led us to create DNAFit in 2013.”

Testing your DNA to find out which foods will improve your health is a straightforward procedure built on complex science. A simple saliva test — a swab from the inside of your cheek — is sent to a lab, where a selection of genetic variants are analysed. From there, DNAFit provides personalised training and nutrition plans: the operative word being personalised.

Food labels are full of information on recommended daily allowances. “That’s fine, if you’re average,” says Steele. “But nobody is. Take our most common stimulant, caffeine. It depends on what type of CYP1A2 gene you have as to whether you generate the enzyme to metabolise caffeine quickly. So the advice that four cups a day is fine, is irrelevant, and the guidelines for risk of a heart attack are too high for some and not high enough for others. This is why we need personalised recommendations.”

Four cups of coffee a day is the NHS’s ‘safe’ upper limit. But this advice might not be right for everyone

Yet what if we like drinking coffee or gorging on chocolate. ”You can get all the healthy advice you want,” Steele concedes, “but if you don’t enjoy it, you’re not going to stick to it. Adherence is the most important factor when it comes to nutritional change and taste plays a key role.”

It’s why DNAFit has moved on from prescribing dietary plans to partnering with London restaurant Vita Mojo, the aim being to provide a wide selection of offerings that work for both your genetics and your palate.

“Our meal-planning software is integrated into Vita Mojo’s ordering system. Let’s say your genetics suggest you need to eat more cruciferous vegetables [broccoli, sprouts, cauliflower, cabbage, kale], the ordering system will put a ‘green flag’ on dishes that match your DNA recommendations.”

If taste is the gateway to better health, what are its determinants? Just as a mix of lifestyle and DNA predisposes our physiological response to food, taste is also a combination of nature and nurture.

“There’s a genetic factor in whether we choose foods high in salt or sugar,” Steele says. “It’s such a nuanced sense, yet so important to everything that makes us live a healthy life and define who we are. I envisage a future where we understand each individual’s predisposition for taste perception, so there will be different versions of the same foods to suit all our preferences.”

Advanced tech is in the DNA

Audi A8 technology

Innovation is at the heart of everything Audi develops, and that allows them to manufacture cars to everyone’s taste.

Premium design in every Audi. Models such as the new A8 and new A7 demonstrate a future-facing design language, with interiors that fuse design and technology in a unique way. Use the online configurator to customise any model precisely to your requirements – whether that means the latest technology and assistance systems or seats in luxurious leather. The choice is yours.

Audi Sport quattro heritage. With a successful and proud sporting past, Audi continues to reflect Audi Sport engineering throughout the range. Take the renowned quattro all-wheel drive system that delivers optimal drive to each wheel. Available on all Audi model ranges, quattro ensures superior handling, phenomenal grip and dynamic responsiveness.

Harnessing the power of tradition and technology. “Vorsprung durch Technik” and more than 100 years of history combine to create cars that truly meet the needs of the modern driver – whatever their taste.


Making sense of our senses

We cannot control everything that takes place on the road ahead (and behind) of us, but we can use our senses to react in the optimal manner.

Audi is integrating technology in its vehicles to enhance these senses, and over the coming weeks we will introduce more inspiring individuals who are doing the same in the fields of touch (next week), smell and sound…

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To stay up to date with Audi’s innovation, explore the range, book a test drive or request a brochure, visit For more on the senses go to