If you have ever watched PBS’s “Finding Your Roots” or TLC’s “Who Do You Think You Are?” (I am just a wee bit obsessed with both!) and wondered how you can find out all of the interesting details contained in your cells, then you are in luck. Home DNA kits are taking off in popularity as scientists are using the information to learn more about human genomes and the origins of certain illnesses.
The best part about these kits is that they are done privately in your home and easy to prepare. Just avoid eating and drinking for an hour and fill the container with your spit — sorry if that sounds crude but that’s exactly what you need to do. They come with a mailer that you drop off at the mailbox and then you just wait for the results. Easy, peasy!
(The BRCA gene test is gaining in popularity thanks to the raising awareness of the breast cancer gene by actress Angelina Jolie, but it is a blood test and should always be done at a doctor’s office.)
Today we are talking about three at-home kits that come in several price points and offer an array of services to help you make the best choices for your health and also give insight into what makes you so amazing and special.
One of the most popular kits comes from 23andMe, where for $199 you get more than 60 personalized genetic reports. Some of what it covers includes your health, ancestry and traits.
In my report I found out I was 99 percent European with 284 Neanderthal variants (cool!). Also, with 23andMe you can find out your carrier status for a variety of conditions including cystic fibrosis, GRACILE Syndrome and Tay-Sachs disease.
The health report is also intriguing where they determine your ability to consume caffeine, lack of ability to be a deep sleeper (sad, but very true) and my muscle composition, which declares I am a “sprinter” with fast-twitch muscle fibers aplenty.
“People are more aware and involved in their health care and more determined than ever to get access to information about themselves,” said Erynn Gordon, MS, LCGC, director of clinical development for 23andMe. “23andMe offers customers a tool to deepen this engagement and be more proactive about their health.”
As for their value in the market, “23andMe is the first and only direct-to-consumer genetic test available to individuals in the U.S. that includes reports that meet FDA standards,” Gordon adds. Also, 23andMe allows customers to share their data with family and friends and participate in research to see how genetics can influence their lives.
My father always referred to me as “the family historian,” so it should come as no surprise that I have been an on and off member of Ancestry.com for many years. It was especially helpful in helping me find military records for deceased family members as well as finding long-lost third cousins.
Ancestry.com launched AncestryDNA in 2012, which sells for $99, to add to their services, and the company has enjoyed an uptick of folks connecting with heretofore unknown relatives.
According to their rep, “The true power of AncestryDNA is most easily realized when it’s integrated with the 70 million family trees and billions of historical records on Ancestry.com, which power even deeper family discoveries.”
When I got back my test it turned out my “ethnicity estimate” is 62 percent Irish, 21 percent British with a dash of Scandinavian that for me, confirms why I equally love a cozy rainy day and dark-humored Swedish films. If you are looking for a no-frills, easy-to-digest report, this could be your best option.
Another interesting option if you are looking for “what kind of exercise/food program should I follow based on my DNA” is Pathway Genomics, which offers a Pathway Fit test that is very thorough for $599.
My Pathway Fit test came with three extensive reports that indicated that I am best for a low-carb/high-cardio diet and fitness regimen, which is exactly what I follow.
It also went through a whole slew of indicators for me including
- I have the FTO gene, which means I have a propensity to being overweight (!)
- It found the gene that indicates “eating disinhibition,” which means I tend to snack heavy when I am stressed out. (Doesn’t everyone?)
- Needing to increase my intake for vitamins C and D
For the bigger price tag you also get a personalized meal plan plus access to a registered dietitian to help you live a healthier life.
According to Michael Nova, M.D., chief innovation officer at Pathway Genomics, “Precision medicine is our focus — we’re providing genomics-based tools to empower smart medical and lifestyle decisions.” Even though they offer the BRCA 1 and BRCA 2 test (which must be ordered by your physician), they are seeing an uptake on the wellness side because prevention is something people are taking very seriously today.
Have you taken a DNA test? What results are you interested in the most? —Margo