I’m a light-weight sleeper and am delicate to dairy. I like working — simply not marathons — and begin my days with a cup (or two…) of espresso. That is sounding like a relationship profile, however it’s really a genetic check. It seems these idiosyncrasies about my well being are all a part of my DNA make-up. And extra importantly, they might be clues to my particular person well being dangers.
You’ve in all probability heard of 23 and Me, a well being and ancestry check that features studies in your genetic well being dangers (like late-onset Alzheimer’s), wellness, provider standing and bodily traits. 23 and Me is called after the 23 pairs of chromosomes that make up your deoxyribonucleic acid (DNA). And whereas it’s fascinating to make use of that science to find out precisely the place my household originates from, I used to be extra curious what all of it meant for my well being.
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23 and Me: Understanding Our DNA
In contrast to different genetic checks that always require blood work, 23 and Me attracts up these studies from a small saliva pattern that you just ship again to their lab. After six to eight weeks of processing and analyzing your saliva, you’ll obtain outcomes through e-mail.
Jhulianna Cintron, a product specialist at 23 and Me, says, “We consider folks ought to have the chance to entry, perceive and profit from the human genome. That might be studying about their genetic ancestry, what well being dangers they could have or discovering that their propensity for an additional cup of espresso may very well be their chromosomes.”
However earlier than diving into what makes me “me,” first a refresher on what precisely is DNA. Your DNA is present in virtually each cell in your physique and is comprised of sequences of small models which are represented by the letters A, T, C and G. These DNA sequences are packaged into 23 pairs of chromosomes with directions on how our our bodies take up meals and construct muscle fibers. For each pair of chromosomes, you inherit one out of your mom and one out of your father. People principally have the identical DNA sequences, however the variations between us are variants that we inherit from our dad and mom. These variants embody well being situations, bodily traits and ancestries.
“With ancestry, it’s much less about how we differ and extra about our similarities,” Cintron says. “We evaluate prospects’ DNA to 31 reference populations from areas all over the world and search for similarities.”
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The Stories: Provider Standing and Well being Dangers
I used to be amazed by the small print of the outcomes. There are 4 studies on genetic well being dangers, 4 ancestry studies, 5 wellness studies, 40+ provider standing studies and 15+ traits studies. The provider standing studies present whether or not you’re a provider for uncommon ailments, like cystic fibrosis, sickle cell anemia or Tay-Sachs. Happily, my provider standing studies didn’t detect any variants for uncommon ailments.
Dr. Jeffrey Pollard, director of medical affairs at 23 and Me, says, “The 23 and Me provider standing studies inform people about variants that possible don’t have an effect on their well being, however might have an effect on the well being of their future household. Being a ‘provider’ signifies that the person carries one genetic variant for a situation, which they may cross all the way down to their kids.”
However, the genetic well being danger studies inform you about genetic variants that will enhance your danger for growing sure well being situations, reminiscent of late-onset Alzheimer’s illness and Parkinson’s illness.
“Understanding one’s household historical past of a situation can present insights into their very own danger. Nevertheless, for a lot of situations, genetics quantities to only one a part of an individual’s complete danger. Not everybody with a genetic danger variant or household historical past will develop the related well being situation,” Dr. Pollard explains.
Household Historical past vs. Weight-reduction plan and Way of life
My maternal grandfather suffered from Parkinson’s illness and Alzheimer’s illness, however my checks didn’t reveal any variants. Whereas the studies present that I don’t have genetic variants for these situations, it doesn’t essentially imply that I gained’t develop them. Weight-reduction plan, way of life and environmental components additionally play a job in my well being dangers, Dr. Pollard says. My probabilities of growing coronary heart illness, diabetes and dementia enhance, if I don’t train, eat wholesome and am in a continuing state of stress, for instance.
“Different components, reminiscent of issues which have occurred to a person over their lifetime, usually contribute to a person’s general danger. In some instances, people might be able to cut back danger by managing these non-genetic components,” Dr. Pollard says.
Dr. Pollard stresses that whereas 23 and Me and different genetic checks present provider info, they don’t diagnose well being situations. In case your outcomes present that you’ve got variants for a illness, don’t freak out. It simply means you will have some well being dangers, however they’ll all be lowered by way of life modifications and with the steerage of medical professionals.
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My Ancestry: The Far East
Some of the fascinating elements of my checks is the distinctive story of my ancestry. My outcomes confirmed that I’m 99.2 % East Asian and Native American, 0.7 % South Asian and 0.1 % Sub-Saharan African. Each of my dad and mom are Filipino and had been born within the Philippines. However my outcomes present that I had a 3rd, fourth, fifth or sixth great-grandparent who was 100 % Chinese language and was born between 1750 and 1840. East Asia consists of Japan, Korea, China, Mongolia and the Yakut folks of jap Russia. My outcomes not solely revealed that I’ve some Chinese language ancestry, however that I even have some broadly East Asian blood. A lot for being a real Flip.
However understanding my bloodlines isn’t only for trivia and enjoyable guessing video games. “By realizing your ethnicity, you’ll be able to decide which situations and variants you might be at a better danger of getting,” Cintron says.
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Wellness: I’m a Sprinter and Most Possible Lactose Illiberal
When you’ve ever questioned why you flip beet pink after a cocktail or are a light-weight sleeper, the wellness studies reveal the distinctive well being quirks that form who you might be. The excellent news is that I don’t have the “Asian glow,” like a few of my different East Asian household and associates. The unhealthy information is that I in all probability gained’t be capable to maintain mac and cheese as my favourite cheat meal for very lengthy.
It’s not too shocking that my outcomes confirmed that I’m almost certainly lactose illiberal. Many East Asians are poor in lactase, the enzyme mandatory to interrupt down lactose — the sugar present in milk. I like my ice cream and pizza, however I do discover that I don’t digest dairy as effectively, particularly if I’ve an excessive amount of of it. Not too way back, I began utilizing unsweetened almond milk, as an alternative of cow’s milk.
The wellness studies additionally revealed that my weight is prone to stay regular whether or not I’m on a eating regimen that’s excessive or low in saturated fats (with the identical variety of energy). Because of this if I went all in on a cheeseburger and fries, it wouldn’t have an effect on my weight very a lot. Nevertheless it’s clearly nonetheless essential to restrict such indulgences to forestall coronary heart illness.
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No Sleep for the Sprinter
When it comes to sleep, I’m prone to maintain stirring to a minimal (with fewer than 10 limb actions per hour of sleep), however the studies additionally present that I’m much less prone to be a deep sleeper. This helps clarify why I discover myself waking up in the midst of the evening, whether or not it’s from a automotive alarm exterior or listening to somebody getting up within the room subsequent door.
And, as a distance runner, I used to be stunned to search out out that my muscle composition is definitely that of a sprinter. Analysis exhibits that endurance athletes are inclined to have extra slow-twitch muscle, whereas sprinters have extra fast-twitch muscle tissues. Quick-twitch muscle fibers produce extra power than slow-twitch fibers. Each individual has a special proportion. So all these 5Ks and half-marathons I’ve carried out? Perhaps my massive second is supposed to occur on the sprinter’s blocks as an alternative.
Dr. Pollard explains, “Most sprinters and endurance athletes differ within the composition and the capabilities of their muscle tissues. These variations could also be influenced by each coaching selections and genetic components.”
Research have discovered that almost all elite energy athletes, together with sprinters and throwers, have a particular genetic variant in a gene associated to muscle composition, Dr. Pollard provides. The muscle composition report compares you to elite athletes primarily based on this variant. So once more, taken with a grain of salt.
As for my morning routine? Curiously sufficient, the checks indicated that I’m extra prone to eat 9 milligrams extra caffeine per day than the typical individual. This explains my love of espresso and why I’m very alert and never a deep sleeper.
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So Ought to You Strive 23 and Me?
At $179, the 23 and Me well being and ancestry check isn’t low-cost (the ancestry-only check prices $79). And also you won’t acquire life-altering insights that can rework the best way you eat, sleep and assume. However for me, 23 and Me helped resolve mysteries about my meals sensitivities and the way they are often traced to my Chinese language bloodline. Plus, it gave me a greater image of whether or not I’m a provider for uncommon ailments that may be handed down.
On the finish of the day, info is energy. Cintron says, “People can select to make use of that info to take a extra lively position of their well being. They will have interaction in additional significant discussions with their healthcare supplier or just turn out to be extra motivated to take steps towards a more healthy life.”
You should purchase a 23 and Me well being and ancestry check for $179 or an ancestry-only check for $79 right here, on Amazon or CVS and Goal shops nationwide.