Direct-to-consumer genetic testing has been around since 2006, 23andMe, followed by another ten or so companies by 2008.
DTC genetic tests give consumers access to their genetic profiles without involving a healthcare professional.
Aside from genetic testing for birth defects, ancestry was the reason millions of people ordered these at-home tests. The idea of discovering a never before known—hopefully rich or famous—relative even spawned more than one television show. The one that stands out is Finding Your Roots with Henry Louis Gates Jr.
The next generation of use for these tests is what I’ll call lifestyle genetic profiling. Taking the kind of test that can provide you with risk factors based on your genes and gene variations.
In 2013 I was against these DTC tests because back then I hadn’t found one that
- a) required or strongly suggested you work with a healthcare professional,
- b) didn’t share your genetic information,
- c) had science to back up their claims about food and other lifestyle recommendations based on your genes.
Oh, and some companies bundled a custom supplement package along with your test results. A formula you could only get from the testing company.
Can you say “conflict of interest?”
Ten years on there are more companies than ever offering these types of tests.
After researching 20 companies with similar offerings, and downloading their sample reports, I found one company I could trust. An interview with the founder changed my mind about taking the test.
Confession time. I didn’t want to get the test because I was afraid to see my results. What if there was something scary in the report? What if I had a gene for breast cancer or Alzheimer’s?
You can’t unsee what you’ve seen, right?
Then I remembered epigenetics. Science proves that environment and lifestyle habits affect the expression of our genes. In some cases up to 90%. Heck, I wrote a book about it.
I remembered that one gene does not a disease make.
And something I didn’t know but Dr. J explained in the interview and continued in our live Q&A, is that there are protective genes working to keep the bad guys in check.
In part, it has to do with the concept of methylation.
Use the link above if you want to dive deeper into Dr. Axe’s site He’s one of my go-to docs when I’m looking for an answer to almost any aspect of health. Basically, he writes, “As a metabolic process, it basically switches genes on and off and repairs DNA.
This is a big deal because gene expression has the power to influence many aspects of health, including one’s risk for certain diseases, such as neurological issues and some cancers.”
What tipped me in favor of “Yes, let me buy this test” was this.
And why wouldn’t I want to know what food my body runs best on?
For instance, I now have the perfect excuse for no longer trying to like kombucha. “Sorry, my genes say fermented foods are not my friends.” Of course, that also leaves out a whole lot of foods—and bevies—I enjoy but more on that in the next post.
Beyond food, there are risk factors for disease that it made sense to me—finally—to get ahead of. That same level of “not my friends” in the fermented foods category could promote arthritis if I didn’t know the risk and limit those foods.
What about the genes that cause or influence your risk of cancer or diabetes? Wouldn’t you want to know so you could make any necessary lifestyle changes to mitigate the risk? If you have siblings, wouldn’t you want to let them know that, assuming you have both parents in common, what showed up so they too could plan?
My answer to those questions, after ruminating on them for a month or more, was yes, I wanted to know. Genes do not change but they are influenced by our lifestyle choices, environment, and believe it or not, how we think. This means that no matter what my results were, I could have a hand in how the results played out.
If you didn’t see the link above to the company whose test I used, you can find them here at MyHappyGenes®.
Next week I’ll show you why I chose them, how to separate facts from fake news around some companies’ promises, and the one result I got that shocked me but not enough to do anything about it.
Lottery thinking, Greg? Perhaps, I’ll let you decide next week.