It is the ultimate exercise in ego-tripping, when you order a DNA test kit from the international research company 23andMe.
One sends his spit off in a test tube to the Netherlands, and on the other end, a team of scientists are ready to report back a myriad of facts about the sender and his body, that he doesn’t necessarily already know.
I recently did it myself, and it is a lot of fun and an interesting experience.
To those who don’t know: DNA tests targeted towards the consumer market are on the rise these days, and before long, many people you know will probably begin to mention it, as it is only getting cheaper as time goes by.
With a DNA test, you will be tested for a variety of gene markers, from which you can tell all sorts of information; ranging from whether you have an imminent risk for specific diseases, to for example how your body reacts to a cup of coffee.
Researchers have found a very wide range of gene markers that can be associated with different bodily characteristics. For instance, we know that people who are carrying the allele APO*E4 have an increased risk of getting Alzheimer’s disease (their risk is 10 to 30 times higher than the rest of the population).
Thereby, it is not certain that APO*E4 carriers will get Alzheimer’s, and vice versa; all non-carries are not completely exempted for all risk – the likelihood for them is just lower.
In a sense, a DNA test looks at whether you “test positive” for a number of genes that we currently know something about.
So there is still limits to what we can determine from a DNA test, but then again, this field is undergoing rapid development at the moment, and knowing your own genome should only get more and more valuable in the coming years.
As you will see below, a DNA test can further tell you where your ancestors come from, which is great just, because I think our current, general perception of nationality could get shaken up, if we all understood that we come from all over the world.
It has been really fun and exciting for me and my wife, getting into DNA testing, and I will now show some of the results that I have found most informative and actionable about myself.
WHERE DO I COME FROM?
Since I am a completely pale-skinned, afraid-of-the-sun Dane, it’s easy to come to think of oneself as “100% Danish”. Luckily, a DNA test can quickly alter such a perception:
Since I am also a natural redhead, I’ve already gotten teased for the fact that I might be 10% Irish, so no need to write further jokes in the comments section: p
WILL I GET SICK?
Next aspect of the test – the health part. This is where it actually gets a little nerve-wracking. I imagine, that it is much like waiting for the answer from a venereal disease test – if you test positive, you are screwed! Or more accurately, you could potentially be.
We are thereby presented with a long checklist of 11 genetic risk factors and 43 hereditary diseases, and you just have to hope, that you are coming up negative in as many of these as possible.
Below is an excerpt of my risk factors, where I luckily tested negative in all categories.
It is worth noting, that one has to double confirm, that he wishes to unlock the access to some of this information, as 23andMe realizes how sensitive it can be!
WHAT IF I GET SICK?
Perhaps, the least exciting part of the report is “Drug-response”, which says something about how you would potentially respond to different types of widely used medications.
For me, this was nevertheless useful information, as I found out that I may respond negatively to a common statin (a cholesterol drug), which will hopefully never be relevant.
(The other part concerning PPIs, is just saying that I’m a fast metabolizer of this medicine)
ALL THE FUN STUFF
This is clearly the best part of the test – the “traits” report. Here, you can see all kinds of information about what your genetic makeup else means.
For example, I learned that I’m a fast caffeine metabolizer, which explains why a cup of coffee has an incredibly strong effect on me, and then again, is out of my system rather quickly.
I learned that I am not predisposed to be overweight, or having a sweet tooth, hence I’ve never had any trouble keeping my weight in check.
Furthermore, I learned that I most likely can tolerate lactose, that a Mediterranean diet (containing high amounts of monounsaturated fatty acids) might not be the optimal weight loss strategy for me and that I might had become an accomplished sprinter (had I really trained for it!).
So this is just a selection of some of the things you could learn from my report, and below you will see even more.
One should note that there is a full report behind each line in the list, which further explains and refers to the studies that form the conclusions.
This was my experience with 23andMe. I hope you could use this to judge whether this might be interesting for yourself.