DNA profiling helps athletes peak

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Copy of st mug kagisho dikgacoi (42388048) Getty Images Kagisho Dikgacoi of Crystal Palace. Photo: Dan Istitene

Johannesburg - Swab your cheek, send your saliva to London and you’re well on your way to peak athletic performance.

That’s the claim of Avi Lasarow, South African-born founder of Britain-based company DNAFit.

Using an individual’s DNA profile, it has developed a system that measures that individual’s strongest muscle groups, best dietary choices and proper recovery times.

Professional athletes have already started using the tests to enhance their training, including South African soccer star Kagisho Dikgacoi.

Dikgacoi’s tests showed he had the ideal mix of genetic traits for a midfield player, including an unusually fast recovery speed from strenuous exercise and the right mix of muscles for endurance and “fast-twitch” power.

“If I’d have known what my genetic strengths and weaknesses were when I was younger, I’d have been able to train more effectively,” he said.

IOL pic feb5 dna strand Stock image Reuters

Anyone looking to enhance his or her physical fitness can benefit from a DNA profile, said Lasarow. “It’s for the man in the street, the weekend warriors. It’s for anyone who wants to do more with their body.”

Demitri Constantinou, a sports medicine professor at Wits University, cautioned against taking the tests at face value.

He agreed that an individualised programme could boost an individual’s athletic training regimen but said he himself would use the tests in his own clinics “maybe - and partially”.

He said genetics had made a splash in professional sport. In addition to using steroids and injecting their blood with extra oxygen-rich platelets, athletes may soon be able to “gene dope” - to manipulate their DNA - to make themselves better athletes.

“It’s an interesting topic,” he said.

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