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Nudge: small changes, positive outcomes

Behavioural change. It’s hard. Abandoned New Year’s resolutions despite the best intentions, unsuccessful attempts at weight loss (despite reminders that obesity can radically reduce lifespan). We try countless times to combat this problem – a new diet, a new self-help book, a reinvigorated sense of motivation. But what if the answer lays in our DNA? What if the generalised dietary recommendations were not so general and actually applied to you, as an individual? And what if the behavioural change was not idealistic but realistic, recognising that as human beings, we often yield to irrational choices? And, finally, what if that actionable recommendation could be there at your fingertips right when you need it – at the point of decision, standing in the shopping aisle?

There is much science that relates our Genome to our Metabolism, which in turn influences our decision-making. The perception of a “recommended action” is subtly different when the authority is our biology, rather than an external body guiding us towards a preferred behaviour. DnaNudge seeks a gradual NUDGE towards healthier shopping choices directed by our DNA, without limiting our freedom and inherent desires.

DnaNudge : The future of DNA-informed choice

One of the keys to unlocking the optimal diet is in our DNA.

As humans we share 99.9% of our DNA – the remaining 0.1% is what makes us unique. That difference comes from single “letter” variations in our genetic code, also known as SNPs (Single Nucleotide Polymorphisms). It is the configuration of many genetic traits in unique ways that make us who we are. So one size does not fit all when it comes to nutrition. Each one of us is uniquely genetically wired to break down and absorb nutrients differently. Which biscuits are better for you will depend upon a range of unique factors (for example, how well you personally metabolise saturated fat).

DnaNudge is a brand new product and service that guides you to make heathier shopping choices based on your own DNA.

The “nudge” element comes from the idea of positively impacting behaviour by regular gentle “nudges” in the right direction. Small changes every day can lead to big positive changes over the long-term.

Herein lies the beauty of the “nudge”. If you scan a packet of chocolate cookies, for example, the app will not discourage the purchase of chocolate cookies, but instead, provide a recommendation for alternative chocolate cookies that are “healthier” in that category given your individual DNA profile.

The DnaNudge difference: personalised and private to you

The DnaNudge test is designed to be a simple, automated DNA test. At a participating retailer or service provider, shoppers take a quick cheek swab of saliva (by rubbing the inner side of their cheeks with a soft cotton swab- this is totally pain free!) and load it onto their own disposable DnaCartridge. The cartridge is then inserted into a miniaturised, portable NudgeBox – that can quickly determine key DNA traits related to nutrition. Customers can place either their mobile phone or their DnaBand on the lid of the NudgeBox so that the genetic results can be captured as an image within 15 minutes. The DnaNudge App turns this information into actionable results that help customers shop for the right foods.

Every time a user scans a grocery item’s barcode, DnaNudge’s proprietory algorithms take into account thousands of parameters in order to make an instant recommendation. Of course, all this complicated sophistication is hidden behind the app’s simple interface. “Thumbs up” means that the product is closer to the user’s biology compared to other similar items and is recommended as part of a balanced diet. “Thumbs down” means that the product is not recommended and other items within that product category are better suited for the user in the long term.

The app recommends alternative product swaps; the more the customer uses the app, the “smarter” the alternative recommendations become. An innovative idea called “DnaNudge Sharing” also allows couples or families to shop for the best products for each other.

One of the core aims of DnaNudge has been to distil the vast array of complex information we generate within the genetic test into accurate, actionable information for the user. Moreover, the on-the-spot genetic test is performed in a totally secure and anonymised way, so that neither DnaNudge nor the user has access to genetic information – only the actionable genetic results.

Our DNA testing technology analyses only specific parts of your DNA that have well defined roles in nutrition and metabolism. Since we only pinpoint certain locations within specific genes, and not every single letter of your DNA, your full genetic identity can never be revealed by our tests. Your DNA test results are delivered to and stored confidentially on your smartphone or wearable, so you and only you can access the test results. Upon completion of the DNA test, your results are uploaded to a cloud database that is synchronised with your phone. We do not and cannot store your saliva or DNA sample.

Your testing DnaNudge cartridge is for single use only and is safely disposed of once your test has been completed. When using DnaNudge’s service you maintain exclusive ownership and retain rights of your DNA data. Our DNA testing technology was built to be controlled by the user.

What really excites us at DnaNudge is our potential to make sustainable changes in individual consumer behaviour that can add up to major, positive improvements in health. The significant scientific hurdles that we have overcome have enabled the fusion of two major fields – DNA detection and behavioural change – so that we ca4n instantly provide DNA-based dietary recommendations to individuals at the point of decision. Small changes every day can lead to big positive changes over the long-term. A “DNA nudge” towards better day-to-day purchasing choices can build a healthier future tomorrow.

Your DNA. Your choice.

Science Q&As

Q: What is DNA?

A: DNA (deoxyribonucleic acid) is a long, helix-shaped molecule that contains all genetic information required to create a living being. DNA is made from a chain of 'letters' or smaller molecules called nucleotides. There are four different types of nucleotides: adenine (A),  thymine (T), cytosine (C), guanine (G). The specific combinations and arrangement of nucleotides in your DNA sequence is what makes you completely unique. Each DNA base pair is only about .5 nm, and so very small. Clearly DNA needs amplifying by a process known as PCR. (Polymerase Chain Reaction ) before it can be detected and used in the DnaNudge algorithm. This amplification is one of the functions of the Nudgebox.

Q: What is a gene?

A: A gene is a small section of DNA that contains functional information about some characteristic, eg widow's peak to colours of eye to the metabolic traits we use in the DnaNudge App.   Genes are the smallest units of heredity; each person has two versions or 'alleles' of every gene, one from their mother, one from their father.

Q: What is the genome?

A: The genome is the complete set of genes and therefore the complete genetic 'information pack' that makes you who you are. There are 3 billion nucleotides in your genome and we all differ by 0.1%. These differences are made up of SNPs.

Q: What is a SNP?

A: SNP (pronounced 'snip') stands for Single Nucleotide Polymorphism, and is a single "letter" (nucleotide) variation within the DNA code. Such a small change may not sound like much, but the DNA code is so precise that a little SNP can have big effects. SNPs occur normally within the DNA (there are approximately 10 million SNPs in the human genome) and are responsible for making us different from each other.

Q: How will DnaNudge analyse my DNA sample?

A: When you insert a mouth swab sample in a DnaCartridge and place it into the NudgeBox, DNA is extracted from cells found in your saliva. The entire analysis takes place in the NudgeBox, which you can control, and even visualise using your DnaNudge App. Inside the DnaCartridge millions of copies of your DNA are generated, in order to be able to perform the analysis. The DNA then gets assessed for specific nutrition-related SNPs that scientists have linked to certain traits, for example – sensitivity to Saturated Fat , Vitamin D levels etc.