Genetic testing is becoming more affordable & powerful. The information we can extract from our DNA is getting better. Reasons people may want to test could be history of genetic diseases in the family, curious about inheritance or even finding new ways to maximise health or athletic performance.
I was in the process of changing my diet & starting to exercise more which got me interested in taking the test.
Testing with 23andMe
23andMe are the biggest player in genetic testing currently, and were recently approved to give health information after the FDA had blocked them for a number of years from anything health related. There are still limitations, but a good deal of health information is currently available through their testing, including increased risks for alzheimer’s and certain types of cancer.
(The name 23andMe refers to human DNA being organised into 23 pairs of chromosomes.)
Testing is simple, just spit in a test-tube & send the sample away to be processed. Results are returned in 4–6 weeks and are accessible over the web.
23andMe give results from physical traits (potential hair colour, lactose intolerant), to ancestry and genetic risk factors to certain diseases.
Overall the site is easy to navigate & gives a good deal of information across genetic traits (from hair colour, to lactose intolerance) to drug response to ancestry.
Digging Deeper into the Data
While 23andMe results are useful on their own, and some of it is usable (I need to watch my coffee intake in the afternoons), it can be overwhelming and limited in insights they can provide.
This is where 3rd party companies come in.
DNAFit claim genetically-matched training is proven to be 3 times more effective than mismatched training. It is used by athletes around the world including Olympian Greg Rutherford and Barcelona FC football players.
DNAFit provide a service where they can analyse your 23andMe data, or you can do the analysis directly with them bypassing 23andMe. From this they provide an easy to read summary & list of recommendations, which can be applied to your fitness, diet & overall wellbeing goals
DNAFit even provide a service where one of their team will go through the data with you over a call.
For me, I respond better to endurance over power exercises. Training they would recommend would be low intensity & longer duration. I’m also more suited to a Mediterranean style diet as I process carbs very quickly.
Anecdotally, I would tend to agree, preferring longer distance training over power sports. I would also tend to put on weight quickly on higher carb diets.
There are a number of other tools & services available that can analyse 23andMe data for genetic diseases, traits or ancestry DNA. Some are free.Joshua Townsends blog gives a good summary.
There’s a saying with regards to genetics “Genetics loads the gun, the environment pulls the trigger”, meaning our genetic makeup does not determine our destiny. This relatively new science is called epigenetics.
— Dr Joe Dispenza (@DrJoeDispenza) July 31, 2016
Knowing about genetic profiles has helped with the treatment for certain types of cancer, autism, depression, alzheimers, IBS and many other auto-immune diseases. Understanding the genetic profile can lead to diet or drug changes which could improve the outcome for the patient. This is likely to continue improving as scientists gain deeper understanding to epigenetics.
Epigenetics apply to everyone. In my case, DNAFit were able to provide recommendations for exercise plans and diet. With the knowledge of our genetic profile we can make tweaks to our lifestyles & diet to optimise our health.
A great introduction to epigenetics is the video ‘The Tail of Two Mice’, how identical twin mice raised in different environments can grow up physically very different.
How Much Does it Cost?
At the time of writing, 23andMe costs €169, but they do sales during April & December.
DNAFit charge 119 GBP for their full package if you already have tested through 23andMe.
Quantified Self in Ireland
Dublin’s Quantified Self community discusses DNA analysis, the future of healthcare and many other topics every 1–2 month’s in the Science Gallery in Trinity. Entry is free.