Recently my wife Laurice and I tried the 23&Me health and ancestry genetic testing kits. We shared our initial experience here in this video, which included the both of us trying to decide if we should actually film our saliva collecting samples on camera.
The total wait time was about 3 and 1/2 weeks to get our results. Note: I have read a number of reviews on Amazon that claim it took much longer to get results, so please contact the company to find out more.
Overall, we were simply curious about what we might be able to find out about our DNA and if there was anything we could proactively do to prevent any of the predispositions to any diseases that we might have.
I also believe that most of these reports are for educational and research purposes only and that most published reports about DNA variations explain only a small part of the heritability of a trait, and they also don’t take into account how different variants might interact.
It’s also important to understand (and 23&Me does this well) that published reports typically ignore environmental, dietary, microbial, medical history and lifestyle factors, any or all of which may well affect my true risk for any trait or disease.
We ordered the Health and Ancestry report, which seems to be the most conclusive. The health and ancestry report is suppose to tell us more about our DNA, health, traits and ancestry. This includes a report that explains our genetic health risks for Alzheimers and Celiac disease (a true hypersensitivity to gluten, not a fad diet).
According to 23&Me, their kits meet FDA requirements and they continue to add additional reports. I know they’ve recently added genetic health risks like gene mutations for breast and ovarian cancer, which could prove to be very helpful.
We’re You Born with a Beach Body?
Their wellness report unveils some interesting and possibly helpful things like our predisposition for our true/ideal weight (lower or higher than the general population) and obvious variants, (like eating less red meat and exercise) that may effect our current weight. It’s interesting to understand what our actual weight is suppose to be vs how we tip the scale.
The carrier status report let us know if we are gene carriers for diseases like Cystic Fibrosis, Hereditary Hearing Loss and Sickle Cell Anemia. There are 40 reports in total which include rarer diseases like ARSACS which is a debilitating hereditary and progressive childhood neurological disorder. The report also includes results like whether you carry a mutation that lowers cholesterol and helps guard against heart disease.
Interesting but not what I would consider super useful is a report on our DNA traits, like our ability to taste bitterness (an actual chemical called PTC) and if we are likely to have a Unibrow. (uh, okay)
My wife Laurice describes what she found to be most interesting about her report.
I have always been curious about my ethnicity. We knew my father’s parents were both from Syria and my maternal grandmother was from Ireland, but my maternal grandfather’s roots were vague: “some Irish, some French, and bits of this and that” was what I was told growing up. My composition came back “43.1% British & Irish”, and “43.8% Western Asian,” with the remaining percentage indeed tiny bits of this and that, including “1.0% French”!
To me, the most interesting part of my Wellness Report was that my “Muscle Composition” was “Common in Elite Power Athletes.” I have a new go-to answer for the frequently asked question of how I’m able to keep up with our five children!!
The Traits Report was also illuminating, and most rang true. It didn’t get it all right—I’m not “likely to have lighter skin” and certainly not “less likely to have thick hair” (tell that to my brush!)—but I was still surprised by how accurate the majority of my results were. For example, my DNA showed I was “less likely to be able to match a musical pitch,” which anyone who has heard me sing can attest to. It was strange to me that my DNA also correctly revealed I was “likely to wake up around 7:25 AM”.
Uncovering Your Family Tree
I have read that results of ancestry tests may differ from company to company. While Laurice and I are not creating an ancestry tree, I have read that Ancestry DNA does an excellent job. I have also heard that 23&Me has a much better Ethnic Origin Analysis and we did find out interesting things like how many cousins we have around the world and where they live.
What do I do with all this information?
If you are considering an at home DNA testing kit I strongly encourage you to discuss your report with your doctor, genetic counselor or other health-care provider prior to making any medical or reproductive decisions.
Also, you can upload your results to sites like https://livewello.com/ which is a tool to organize all of your health data for your physicians and specialists.
When I spoke to some of my friends about the test, I wasn’t surprised to learn that they are concerned that 23&Me and other DNA kits selling our private information to Google and other companies. Drug companies like GSK are working with 23&Me to mine the data found in these tests. They don’t look at an individual’s name and personal information, just the DNA results. According to my research, 23andMe definitely is selling your data to third party companies, research institutions and nonprofits. But it is not selling your genetic data to those entities in order for them to sell you things. It is selling de-identified, aggregate data for research, if you give them consent.
If you are concerned about your privacy and what is being done with your test results, The Wall Street Journal published an in-depth article about this on Sept 17th in their Innovations in Healthcare issue. Here is the link for you to read.
If you have any questions or would like to discuss DNA Kits, I’d love to hear from you, just comment below.
Yours in Good Health,
Dr. Adam Perlman