DNA Tests are becoming a natural part of our health world. Whether your doctor recommends DNA testing or you choose any of the direct to consumer DNA tests or choose to work with an epigenetic coach, one thing is clear… we are moving closer towards personalized medicine.
What is DNA?
DNA stands for deoxyribonucleic acid which is in present in each cell everywhere. It tells the cells how to react and how to grow. It is the richest and most complex piece of information that we have discovered and have understood.
Humans have 23 pairs of chromosomes which make a total of 46; 23 chromosomes from our father and another 23 chromosomes from our mother. The 23rd chromosome determines if we are male or female. All of these chromosomes have a total of three billion individual letters of DNA.
In 2003, the Human Genome Project was able to show the human DNA sequence. This enabled us to read DNA and helped us understand what makes us humans.
DNA is good at helping us identify close family relations. There have been many stories on how people have reunited with their lost close family members. Knowing your DNA will tell you things you probably didn’t know of. This includes your culture, history, and identity.
This is probably the most common reason for DNA testing.
Aside from identifying your ethnicity and family relations, DNA can provide so much more. It provides information about your health and disease risk. It can make you be more proactive about your health.
As time passes by, there are more companies that extract your DNA to sequence your genome. This is why there are also many different types of DNA testing in different companies, too.
Can a DNA test tell you your ethnicity? Can it tell you your possible risks to diseases? Can it tell you how you are supposed to eat? Can it help you see if you are able to pass some traits to your future children?
These are just some of the most common questions that are going to be answered.
Here are the topics that are going to be covered in this article:
- Genealogical DNA tests
- The Difference Between Direct To Consumer Genetic DNA Tests
- Why Health DNA is Needed
- What DNA Test is Best
- Why You Will Need to Test
- DNA, Diet, Exercise, and Health
- How Accurate DNA Tests are
- Why it isn’t Accurate to Focus on 1 Gene for Interpretation
- Top Genetic Companies
- Risk of Direct to Consumer Home Genetic Tests
Genealogical DNA tests
There are different types of DNA tests. Each one tells you different things and is done differently. For genealogy, the common types of DNA tests which also include DNA testing for ethnicity are:
- Autosomal DNA test
The autosomal DNA test is the basic test that is offered by all companies. It looks at your DNA on every ancestral line and estimates your ethnicity. This tracks your ancestors from the past few hundred years.
This is the test for you if you want to do family matching or ethnicity estimating.
- YDNA Test
The YDNA test only looks at the Y chromosome and one paternal line in your family tree. Take note that this does not include your mother side. It goes back to thousands of years.
These tests are for discovering your ancient roots for one part of the tree. Take this test if you want to know if you are related to someone that has the same surname as yours. However, this test cannot be taken by women since women do not have a Y chromosome.
- mtDNA Test
If there is a test only for the paternal line, there should also be a test that looks at the direct maternal line. For this test, it can be taken by both males and females since mothers pass their DNA to males as well.
The Difference Between Direct To Consumer Genetic DNA Tests
Online DNA tests are an affordable and more convenient way of resting. You do not need to see a medical professional since there are many companies offering these tests.
There are also different kinds of direct-to-consumer genetic tests available. It can be a challenge to identify which test is most helpful to you. What you will need to do is to think about what you want from the test.
The major types of direct to consumer tests are:
- Ancestry DNA Testing
It has been discovered in 2018 that there are more than 26 million people that have taken a genetic ancestry test. This type of testing compares your set of single nucleotide polymorphisms to reference groups and finds common ancestors in that group. Companies offering this test also provide specific percentages of your ancestry.
Ancestry DNA testing on health is also the first step to a personalized diet. This will further be discussed below.
- Paternity DNA Tests
Paternity DNA testing, also known as genetic fingerprinting is used for determining whether a child and a father are biologically related. This can be performed by collecting buccal cells in the cheek using a swab.
- DNA Health Testing
DNA health testing is just amazing. Imagine the value of the information that we get to learn ourselves. It can show results and content ranging from serious to fun. All humans have a 0.5% difference in DNA which is why we are diversified. The most advertised and commercially well known is 23andMe.
The health test involves a sample of your saliva. It is sent to the lab for analysis that gives comprehensive reports about your risk factors, carrier status, and more. It is important to know that all tests have a certain percentage of error. Many people panic about their results but when tested in a private or clinical setting, the direct to consumer test was wrong.
- Ancestry DNA Test
Ancestry tests are both entertaining and educational for people. But are not always accurate. It is a new science that is continuing to be improved on. It’s important to look at ancestry tests from the various companies as entertainment and educational fun.
Is Ancestry DNA better than 23andMe?
Ancestry DNA and 23andMe provide users to download their full results. For both companies, you can access and keep the raw data of your DNA test. They are both great at what they do.
It is difficult to say that one company is better than the other. It will depend on which test was chosen by the consumer.
For genetic testing with distant relatives, Ancestry DNA is better. This is because of its great community of like-minded research. They also have an amazing database of other people who have tested.
For genetic testing in terms of health concerns, 23andMe is better.
Here is a table to let you compare the services offered by 23andMe and AncestryDNA with just $99:
|Y chromosome analysis||✔️|
|Mitochondrial DNA analysis||✔️|
|Family tree building||✔️|
Ancestry can play a part in health. In working to optimize the health of my clients, I take into account their ancestry when developing their dietary recommendations.
Why is Health DNA needed?
DNA affects health in so many ways. Your genetics can help you understand your body and how it responds to what you do to it.
Cellular aging is one of the things you discover. This will be based on telomeres which are the structures that protect your chromosomes. Measuring the length of these telomeres can help estimate how well you appear to be aging compared to the others.
Who wouldn’t want to know their possible risks to develop health problems when all diseases are preventable by factors within our control?
It can show you the possibility of developing certain conditions such as:
- Breast cancer
- Alzheimer’s disease
- Parkinson’s disease
- Celiac disease
- Macular degeneration
Aside from these, it also shows you more specific health risks. The health risk-specific tests available are Alzheimer’s disease, cholesterol, and diabetes.
You can also go for carrier screening. It is a test that shows whether you have a genetic variant associated with such genetic disorder. Some examples include cystic fibrosis, sickle cell anemia, or hereditary hearing loss. This test will help lessen the chances of you passing on these disorders to your children.
There are also wellness and traits reports which provide information about your overall health.
Did you know that there is a natural genetic weight?
This is one of the information that they can show you. The test will also show how likely you are to experience addiction, deep sleep, and other traits. Nutrition fitness is another thing that this test can offer you. It is the most popular so far.
Recommendations are given for you to follow a more healthy lifestyle. Metabolism, gluten sensitivity, nutrient absorption, and muscle tissue type are some of the things that will be looked at.
This is also one of the reasons why Nutrigenomics exists.
Nutrigenomics is said to be the future of nutrition and healthcare. It helps to understand the strengths and weaknesses of the SNPs. It looks at the effects of food on gene expression. This means that it can tell you what you should eat and avoid.
Which DNA test is best?
There are different “bests” for each individual depending on his preference or objective.
What do you want to achieve?
It is important to first understand the differences in each test. Compare and weigh the pros and cons of each test. Then, it will be easier for you to choose the right one that is perfect for you.
If you are conscious about your health and lifestyle, you can get a DNA testing kit from companies like Genomic Guru since they are more focused on this.
If you are looking for distant relatives, autosomal DNA tests would be perfect for you. However, if you are looking to trace your family history through generations, mtDNA or YDNA are recommended.
Why would someone choose to get a genetic test?
There are many different reasons for an individual to get a genetic test. Choosing to get a test can help you discover so many things you never knew about. Here are some of the things that you can learn from testing:
- Identify the best diet and supplements according to your genes
- Identify the best sports and athletic activities that suit your genomics
- Identify the gene changes responsible for a diagnosed disease
- Determine the severity of a disease
- Discover gene changes that may be a possible risk in the future
- Discover genes that can be passed on to the next generation
- Screen newborn babies for some health conditions
Genetic testing can be beneficial. It can also either be a relief to some, but it can also be emotionally stressful for others.
It can be a relief to people who just eliminated their uncertainty in developing such health complications. It can also be a relief since doctors will be able to make better recommendations and treatments for you, especially when detected earlier. Also, it allows you to make better lifestyle choices each day.
However, it can be emotionally stressful for people that are easily scared. Another downside of genetic testing is that it is costly.
DNA, Diet, Exercise, and Health
Aside from the discovery of diseases, DNA testing can also help with your diet, exercise, and health. This creates a better standard of living and a healthier lifestyle.
Our bodies react differently depending on what kind of food is taken. These reactions can show us what you need and what you don’t to minimize health risks and even promote weight loss.
Have you heard about the DNA diet?
Our DNA affects what we eat.
Nutrigenomix can give you a detailed dietary plan based on your DNA using nutrigenomics. Each individual responds differently to the same food, nutrients, and supplements. There is no particular diet that can be perfect for all.
Genetic variations are the reasons for the differences in response. The dietary plan will include nutrient metabolism, eating habits, food intolerances, and physical activity. All these can be given to you from your saliva. The human spit has all the genetic material testers needed to create a DNA nutritional map.
A study in 2014 showed that a genetics-based diet had 33% more weight loss than the generic diet plans. There is also a Stanford study testing if either low carb or low fat to genetic predisposition is better.
There are many things to consider while choosing a diet best for you. This includes food choices, lifestyle, availability, and cost. What’s for sure is that you should not ignore DNA as a factor of your diet, too.
What benefits can ancestry tests have on health?
The best way to start personalizing your diet is through the ancestry DNA test. This can be called ancestral eating. Get your DNA analyzed to have a gene-based dietary, exercise, and lifestyle plans. We are often told that we are what we eat. Although this is true, we should also eat what we are.
For example, if you are Northern European, you are most probably lactose intolerant. Lactase persistence appears in almost more than half of the population. For Northern Indians, it’s even 63%.
We are used to hearing diets that should have less fat, more vegetables, and fruits. However, is it possible to have a high-fat diet that is favorable to our DNA?
High-fat diets are not necessarily bad for your health. For the Inuits, they have special mutations in their genes that counteract the effects of taking high mammal fat and polyunsaturated fatty acids. This is why they are better off with a high-fat type of diet. Their genetic mutations lower their bad cholesterol which protects them from getting cardiovascular diseases.
The Eskimos are the common mutations in the Inuit. They decrease the production of omega-3 and omega-6 fatty acids to account for these in their diet. However, it still remains unclear which specific gene is responsible for changing the metabolism of fatty acids.
Aside from the food diet, a DNA test also tells you what vitamins in your body are lacking. It will also tell you which vitamins are better absorbed by the body. Then you will now know which supplements can help your body function well.
How accurate are DNA tests?
Genetics is a probabilistic science.
There are types of DNA tests that are more accurate than the other. YDNA and mtDNA are more accurate than autosomal in terms of learning about distant ancestors.
Also, there are two possible issues when it comes to the accuracy of the DNA tests. The first is if the sequencing was done well. Assuming that it was done accurately, the second issue will be on how it is interpreted.
It is fair to assume that the DNA test generates accurate data, but there are also cases of failure. There are also discrepancies that can arise from the databases of the companies.
The Top 2 Genetic Companies
The most popular and highest authority companies in the health genetic testing industry are 23andMe and Genomic Guru.
23andMe DNA Test For Health
23andMe is the best known for quality health DNA tests . They give results in 6-8 weeks. They offer one of the most complete packages of information.
It is an affordable choice for such a large database of information. Their large database of users is also the reason their tests are one of the most accurate in the health DNA direct to consumer arena.
23andMe also combines ancestry with their health profiles. It shows an interactive diagram of all the chromosomes of the body and tells you which ones have certain ethnic ancestry.
Their ancestry tests are both autosomal and mitochondrial which allows you to discover more relatives. It also allows you trace your family history through generations. However, they do not have Y-chromosomal tests.
Do take note that these tests should not be considered as a medical diagnosis.
However, there is a downside with 23andMe that has been in the news a lot lately.
We often think that we can have privacy with our data, but that is not always the case. Leaks can happen without our knowledge. 23andMe keeps your saliva and data for up to 10 years. Based on the “biobanking consent document”, the consumer is not allowed to know what happens to raw DNA after they are done with our saliva sample
Also, they sell your data to pharmaceutical companies. It became more explicit when the giant GlaxoSmithKline acquired a significant stake in 23andMe.
This means that the giant can look at the genetic data to look for newer drugs to create. This also means that they can use the data to inform how patients are selected if ever there are clinical trials. Be aware, 23andMe is being paid for your very personal information.
But that’s not all. You may have heard that criminals have been found through their DNA or DNA of family members being found through companies like 23andMe. 23andMe will hand over all users data to the federal government or local law enforcement with a court order.
Any professional in this field that is reputable will tell you that DNA typing has flaws. It is not an absolute. Especially direct to consumer test results. This information can be used as a tool to optimize your diet, fitness and lifestyle, but should not be used – at this point – to charge someone with a life long sentence or the death penalty.
Consumer genetic test genotyping aren’t error proof. 23andme clearly points out to consumers that there is an error ratio and they tell customers to retest anything that comes up positive. A research article published in nature.com and authored by Ambry Genetics wrote this in their conclusion, “Our results demonstrate the importance of confirming DTC (Direct to Consumer) raw data variants in a clinical laboratory that is well versed in both complex variant detection and classification.”
This is why working with someone that can look at your genetic information and combine that with a system based approach of medical data and biodata monitoring. This will give you a true picture of where your health is and how you can optimize it.
Genomic Guru is one of our top 2 companies when it comes to DNA testing. They provide more important genes than the ones in 23andMe.
Since other companies are more focused on ancestry data, Genomic Guru emphasizes genetic data for lifestyle choices. This includes nutrition, athletic performance, hormones, environment, sleep, and supplementation. These factors are more practical and more actionable compared to the discovery of possible risks to diseases.
With the services it offers, it promotes::
- Precision nutrition
- Enhanced performance
- Optimized living
Genomic Guru is also continuing to update their system to allow us to understand more on our personal blueprint.
Once you order a genetic testing, they will send you a test kit that has a cheek swab. The results will arrive within 5-14 days. You will then have to decide which reports you want to review with your epigenetic coach. You can do this before ordering a test or after placing your order.
Did you know that a Stanford University weight loss study showed that there is 278% more weight loss in people who dieted based on their genomic data?
In Genomic Guru, they look at 120 genetic SNPs while most companies only look at 10 to 20. The epigenetic coach will check your appetite, metabolism, hunger satiety, insulin resistance, and fat utilization and absorption.
Most companies offer interpretation reports, but there are flaws with these computer generated reports. For Genomic Guru, they offer trained clinicians and coaches that you choose to obtain the interpretation of SNPs which is more focused on epigenetics and SNP interactions.
Another thing that is great about Genomic Guru is that they value your privacy. They do not keep your information, unlike other companies. After uploading your file to create a report, your data is erased from the system. That is why it is best to download and save your PDF report once you receive it.
However, they do not keep your information which means that you cannot match with your possible relatives. Also, there is no hidden fine print.
Risk of Direct to Consumer Home Genetic Tests
One aspect that is rarely discussed about direct to consumer reports is that they avoid most gene variants that carry any disease risks, which keeps them from actually accessing some high impact variants.
Reporting important disease risks can bring the government regulating agencies knocking on the door. 23andMe has dealt with this quite a bit in the past. To have a clear picture of how your genes are affecting you, we need to know the high impact variants.
An eye opening study was undertaken by Stanford University. In this study, Stanford researchers found that receiving genetic information can alter a person’s risk. Knowledge of the DNA risk results can increase a person’s risk!
Knowing this adds a new dimension to all the distressed people that didn’t want to know their risk of Alzheimer’s and yet inadvertently found out through the genetic programs online.
Algorithms Vary Between Genetic Companies
The different companies that offer these direct to consumer home genetic tests have different algorithms and ethnicity databases.
According to a recent study by Stanford University researchers, taking DNA tests might have influenced that risk of disease. They found out that when people were told about their condition, it altered the responses of their bodies.
When you receive the information from your DNA test, it does not only make you more informed, it creates a psychological impact on your body that changes your overall risk profile.
This was discovered when DNA samples were taken from people who were told that they were part of a study between DNA and diet. Some of them carried out an exercise test and some of them ate a meal.
After taking the meal, their molecules in the blood were measured if they indicated hunger or fullness. Their genes were also being categorized by either the one associated with obesity or exercise capacity.
There were minimal differences in exercise capacity and satisfaction after the meal. In their second test, some genes that protect are protected from obesity were told that they had a higher risk version of that gene. The same goes for the gene with the exercise capacity. The participants were then given reading materials about the effects of having such gene.
In the obesity group, they learned that they do not receive the full benefits of exercising. They were then told to select from either eating or exercising. Researchers found out that the people performed differently based on the information they received.
Overall, the best thing to do is to keep the benefits while eliminating the risk.
Most Companies Do Not Adequately Protect Your Private Genetic Information
In terms of privacy risk, you need to know how companies store their data and how long they store it for. It is also important to know who can access the data, who they share it to, and the purpose of them storing it.
Just like in 23andMe, there are probably other companies selling to third party companies. There will also be more questions on what happens to your DNA when the company becomes sold, dissolved, or even hacked.
Reading the contract may not be enough to fully protect you. Make sure you read the small print when you are going for genetic testing. Do remember that your DNA can reveal so much which can significantly affect your lifestyle and you want that private.
Also, the industry does not have a great track record in both usage and storage of these sensitive information.
Why isn’t it accurate to focus on 1 gene for interpretation?
Genes are so complex that it is possible for the whole genome to be involved. It becomes more accurate to focus on more genes than one gene alone.
Around 15 years ago, geneticists used DNA from thousands of people who had the same traits. Their goal was to look for clues on each trait to see the commonalities in their genome. This analysis is called genome wide association study (GWAS).
After several studies, they discovered the polygenic hypothesis. The hypothesis states that there are multiple loci or positions in the genome that had a great chance of involvement in every trait with each contributing a little.
According to a geneticist at Stanford University names Jonathan Pritchard, there are at least 14 loci that contribute to autism risk. Later, together with his colleagues Evan Boyle and Yang Li, they suggested that for some traits, it could be more than 100,000.
When you try observing the portions of the genome that the analysis have flagged as significant to individual traits, you will notice that they are well-distributed. It is highly possible that complex traits are produced by an infinite number of genes.
This also means that essentially all genes contribute to the condition since everything in a cell is actually connected.
Best DNA Testing
Are you now planning to have a DNA test? Learn more about yourself, your background, and what you can do with your health and lifestyle by testing.
For 2019, the best DNA testing kits are:
- AncestryDNA, best for research and finding relatives
- 23andMe, best for a combination of Genealogy and health research
- FamilyTreeDNA, best for Genealogical research with strict privacy
- MyHeritageDNA, for the best basic DNA kit
If you are more concerned about your diet and nutrition, try Genomic Guru’s Optimized Living Blueprint. This will be a 45-page blueprint covering everything you need to know to make lifestyle choices. It provides:
- Nutrition and diet genomics
- Supplementation genomics
- Sleep genomics
If you want to supplement your eating habits with the perfect workout for you, try Genomic Guru’s Performance Blueprint. It provides 35 pages of recommendations and insights based on your:
- Athletic performance genomics
- Environmental and detox genomics
- Hormone genomics
Since this is not direct to consumer, you can go through your own genetic coach or through me. A genetic coach will reduce your risk and increase your benefits and understanding of your tests.
Remember that it is your choice to take a genetic test. Since it may be difficult to decide when to take one, it is best to be ready before taking one. Discuss with your family or a health professional first if you have some worries.
The test can provide useful information that can change how you want to live your life. This is why you should be open even to emotional stress. Be ready physically and emotionally before taking the test. It will have benefits, but it will also have limitations and possible risks.
It is important to keep the benefits while eliminating the risk.
Just like what most of us probably do, we have spent so much time searching for the perfect diet. We failed to realize that there is no one-size-fits-all kind of diet. It all depends on our DNA. This is also true for exercising, losing weight, and for lifestyle.
So, are you ready to make some changes for a better lifestyle? Which DNA test are you already willing to try?