23andme: The Results
Following last week’s review of 23andMe service, I thought the actual results and debate over the relative merits of this information for a separate post. So to begin at the beginning, the results. These are offered up on the 23andMe website within your own personal portal (where you can also decide whether you want these to be used anonymously to compare to other users). These are broadly broken down into two major categories: Health and Ancestry. I’ll be sharing my own data as part of this post and you will be able to see the surprises and confirmations the testing was able to provide.
Within the health category there are also 4 main subcategories (and a health tools advice section): Genetic Risk Factors, Inherited Conditions, Drug Response and Traits.
Genetic Risk Factors
Let’s not beat around bush, this is the section that can give the most relief and worry if you’re going to have your DNA tested. Luckily for me (as you can see), broadly speaking my risk factors were ‘typical’ with one exception. I do appear to carry one of the higher risk factors for late onset Alzheimer’s Disease – though not the highest risk variant it has to be said – and this was a surprise. I am not aware of any family history of the disease and so far from a terrifying spectre, I took this insight as something to be aware of in the future and prepared for. It’s also worth adding that beneath this initial page of results, there is another that explains what they mean in much more detail.
this section is also very much stepped in controversy and some have warned against the validity of the results, not least because this is still a relatively new field and discoveries are being made seemingly every day.
This is the other section that can stir some controversy, as it deal with conditions passed down through families. Personally, I have no specific variants to be aware of and that’s certainly reassuring, but sheer range of different conditions was a little scary! Again, these are not to be taken as gospel, but these are also updated over time as more information becomes available, so you can always check back too.
I was slightly surprised to find this subcategory to be the most interesting for day-to-day insight, as I found the trio of ‘non-typical’ reports incredibly useful. The Hep-C treatment response and advice to avoid Statins is certainly something that I would benefit from knowing now rather than when I actually need these treatments! Even more than that, the understanding that I am a rapid metaboliser of PPIs really told me something I have experienced and wondered about for years. To explain briefly, I have for years had a number of stomach related issues and have always found that the medication I buy or am even prescribed does not last anywhere near long enough. I have wondered for years why this might be the case and now I know!
Getting onto the slightly more fun areas now (or at least not quite as serious), where a host of things are confirmed about me, baldness, wet ear wax and even that I metabolise coffee slowly – hence why I avoid it later in the day! This even extended down to my muscle type, although is has to be said that there are some not-perfect results in there (I don’t have blue eyes and my hair is was pretty much straight), I have to say this was always a fun section to look over and realise just how accurate a lot of it already is!
I’ll try to make this one a bit faster, not least as there is a distinct feeling of speculation throughout this section. Having said that, given the apparent accuracy of the previous health section I guess I should have more faith in this area too. As you can see from the general composition, I am broadly British and very much European in origin, all of which is true to my family history.
I was also hit with an odd hint of pride when I found the I was MORE Neanderthal than the average European, apparently! But it was in the parental ancestry that I was really intrigued. According to this I am more Northern European than I ever expected, particularly from Scandinavian countries. This was initially a surprise, but when you think that I have generations of family from the areas of Cheshire and Wales (as far as I know anyway), it doesn’t seem too far to logic that these genetic may have come over with the Viking invasions years ago. Or at least that’s what I assume (happy to be corrected if anyone knows better, please do leave a comment).
I found myself oddly nervous waiting for my results to come through and relieved when I found that I had now ‘major’ issues and certainly not that much that I didn’t expect to be in my DNA at least. That’s where I think the true value of this testing is, as the health insight it offers is really incredible given the relatively minor cost. The ancestry information is fun, but ends up feeling a little ‘light’ – although for no other reason than I just don’t really find myself caring that much…in the same way I never really cared that much about researching my own family tree beyond what my immediate grandparents could tell me (I’ve always felt there’s something beautiful in the oral tradition of family history, but I digress).
Ultimately, there will always be a debate about this type of testing – its ethics and its accuracy – but I can’t help buy believe that knowledge is power (otherwise why would I be running this blog in the first place!). Some people will always opt for blissful ignorance when it comes to potentially bad news, and many of these would also never dream of tacking there own health data on a daily basis either. Meaning that some people will never be won over by the offer this level of knowledge about themselves and opt instead.
Therefore, for those that would like to know or are worried about whether there are any surprises hiding in their DNA, I can’t recommend 23andMe’s solution highly enough – it’s cost effective and very user friendly. For those that don’t want to know, I respect your decision, but that doesn’t mean I have to agree with it…