I Tried It: DNA Testing

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Photo by Tim de Groot

Have you tried DNA testing yet? I have and I find it utterly fascinating.

23andMe, the American company started by Anne Wojcicki, the ex-wife of Sergei Brin, one of Google’s co-founders, was the vanguard in the mainstream take up of DNA testing. And it’s so easy to do (and available in Superdrug in the UK!). Just a spit into a tube, send it off and a few weeks later, a full analysis of your health (risks, responses to certain drugs, inherited conditions and traits) and ancestry appears on your online 23andMe dashboard.

It’s compelling stuff. And if you have the stomach, you can find out what your risks are for common and complex diseases, such as Alzheimer’s, Parkinson’s and type 2 diabetes. It goes without saying that are many ethical issues surrounding the disclosure of this sort of information without an intermediary to explain – here’s a good overview. I took the plunge and chose to reveal the risks, because like the Questioner I am, I like having all of the available information about a subject to hand in order to make a decision.

The ancestor analysis is equally fascinating. I found out that my mixed race heritage is much more diverse that I thought. It’s roughly 49% European, 46.6% Sub-Saharan African, 2% Native American & East Asian, 0.4% Ashkenazi and the rest is unassigned.

If you want to do a deeper dive into your genome, there are services like Genetic Genie that will take your 23andMe data and give you more specific health information, such as your methylation and detox profile. According to their analysis, I don’t have any MTHFR mutations but I do have heterozygous mutations in several genes that support methylation and detoxification. I’m genuinely looking forward to finding out more about what this means and what I can do to support methlyation and detoxification in my body.

If you’re more interested in your genetic response to nutrition and fitness, DNAFit is a good service. They sent me a comprehensive report telling me that I have a fast post exercise recovery response, medium endurance exercise is best for me, and I’m slower to clear free radicals, i.e. detox, so I have a raised requirement for dietary antioxidants and omega-3s.

For the average person, all of this information can feel overwhelming, which is why it’s important to find a trained professional to help guide your interpretation of the genetic data.

The emerging field of epigenetics tells us that nature and nurture both have an effect on your genes, but that you can make lifestyle and dietary changes that can make a difference. Within epigenetics, the field of nutrigenomics is what I’m most interested in – the effect that food and supplements can have on your genetic expression. Can the foods you eat change your genes? This is exciting stuff that is on the ‘bleeding edge’ of nutrition. Dave Asprey is doing some great work in this area.

Have you done any DNA testing? What did you think?

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