My brother used Ancesty.com for genetics testing a few years ago and ever since I’ve been meaning to try something like it myself. When 23andMe reached out to see if i would be interested in trying their own Health and Ancestry test, I jumped at the opportunity.
Here is how it works:
First thing in the morning, you spit into a little test tube. It takes about 5 minutes to collect enough saliva. Then you seal it, place it in prepaid envelope and send it off to the lab where it takes 6 weeks to analyze and get your results back.
6 weeks later…
I got my results when I was on the cruise and couldn’t wait to read them. Of course the internet was slow and it was painful trying to go through them all. I had so many reports!
Ok, so this wasn’t a huge surprise. I am after all white with dirty blonde hair. Through my brother’s research using Ancestry.com all of this information makes 100% sense. What was interesting was that my sister took the same tests and we were very much identical but had slight differences. She had signs of North African decent (0.1%) and I did not. Normally I would have dismissed this but again, according to my brother’s research, we do have 1 descendant from *I think* from what was called Persia at the time who moved to Quebec.
Using 23andMe, you can compare your results with relatives. You can literally see which parts of your DNA are identical, half identical or totally different. Since you have 2 copies of each chromosome, identical matches are when both copies are the same, half is considered when you have one matching copy.
The image above is comparing my sister and my DNA. Crazy, right? The site digs even deeper into what each chromosome is responsible for.
We both took the Health and Ancestry kits so in addition to the genetic reports, we received ones detailing carrier status of certain diseases (which are optional), genetic health risks, traits, and wellness.
In regards to carrier status, I was found to be negative for the 42 traits tested. However, they do include this warning:
If you see “Variant not detected” for a Carrier Status report, it means you’re not a carrier of the tested variant(s). Keep in mind that while our Carrier Status reports cover many variants, they don’t include all possible variants associated with each condition. So it’s still possible to be a carrier of a variant not included in our test.
For the genetics health risk reports, your DNA is tested for genetic variants that may increase your risk of developing certain health conditions. Nick actually took the test along with Mary and I but opted out of learning his results which is an option. He prefers not to know since he can’t change the outcome, it’s not guaranteed and other factors
. Mary and I both chose to know and both came back negative.
Again here is a disclaimer before reading these results:
Our reports do not include all possible genetic variants that could affect these conditions. Other factors can also affect your risk of developing these conditions, including lifestyle, environment, and family history.
Right now there are 4 health conditions, two or which are parkinson’s and Alzheimers. As more results become available, 23andMe will send an email asking if I want to know my results and all I have to do is click to opt in, no additional cost.
There are 19 traits that I was tested for including how likely I am to be hair color and texture, taste preference profile, freckles and skin pigmentation.
“These reports are a fun way to learn about how your DNA influences your physical appearance, preferences, and physical responses. The predictions are based on current knowledge of how genetic factors influence our traits.”
Now, as I mentioned above, Nick took the test but refused to answer a long questionnaire before submitting his sample. Where as I had a total of 78 reports, he only had like 22… I am pretty sure I told 23andMe some of this information like eye color and hair texture, I found the results fun. Nick, the skeptic disagreed and thought it was silly that I was so fascinated that 23anMe knew I probably had straight or wavy hair.
The wellness reports were interesting to me as well.
If you click on specific reports like genetic weight for example, it tells you your results more in depth and then provides suggestions based on their research of how people with similar genetic makeup maintain a healthy weight. To me this was slightly no brainer but suggested I avoid fast food (I do), limit red meat (again, I do), exercise, sleep 7-8 hours and eating vegetables.
As for the lactose intolerance report, it dives deep into how lactose is digested and how your chances of becoming lactose intolerant increase over time and how gut bacteria plays an important role. You have the option to agree or disagree with the findings which I assume are then used for more research by the team at 23andMe.
The saturated fat and weight variant is interesting as well as it talks about a specific variant that may contribute to people being overweight or obese by analyzing how the body processes saturated fats. Scientists aren’t sure how it plays a role just yet but they are continuing to do research. Again, if you have this variant and are overweight, it may be frustrating to know that biology is working extra hard against you. With each report there is a general overview and then a scientific breakdown.
There is so much information to be consumed, it is overwhelming but so fascinating.
I found the results to be totally cool as did my sister. Nick on the other hand was less impressed as he felt like the ancestry results were so broad. That is just Nick for you though.
There is also a feature that tells you potential relatives on the site. I do not recognize any of my potential cousins and it’s hard to tell if and how we are related but the site shares that we have 5 identical matches in our DNA and even shows which chromosome those matches are on which is pretty cool. It has a list of 1200+ potential cousins ranging from 2nd to 5th.
I think the 1 is my sister but she must have a private profile or something because she doesn’t pop up when I click the relative search tool even though she shares her profile with me.
What Does This All Mean
Unlike ancestry.com, 23andMe is into genetic testing for research purposes. They are interested in how your genetic makeup effects how your body responds to foods, exercise, environmental factors and disease. You have the option to keep all of your information private (what Nick probably chose) or let them use your results to further their research (which I chose). Some is related to diseases while others are simply what genes make people more likely to cry.
Taking the test will set you back $99 (just ancestry) or $199 for health and ancestry. It will tell you if you carry a gene variant that is associated with a higher risk for hereditary diseases. This doesn’t mean you’re in the clear though and it doesn’t mean you’re doomed either.
Here is a look from PBS.org at what you might want to be aware of before taking the results as any definitive sort of diagnosis.
I took a video trying my kit and included it in a family vlog but failed to take any good pictures. This image is from the Women’s Health box. I gave this one to my Mom and we are waiting on her results. This will allow us to see what we inherited from her!
Have you tried this service? Would you keep your info private like Nick or happy to share it?
There are a lot of questions regarding privacy so if you are concerned, you can keep it private. My only concern was my information being used against me and potentially in the future being denied health insurance if I had a preexisting condition. Since my results came back negative for most variants, I’m not worried but I didn’t know that going into the test. Is ignorance bliss? Would you rather know? Let me know your experience or why you wouldn’t take a test like this!
Disclaimer: I was not paid for this review. It is my honest opinion. We were provided test kits in exchange for posting if I liked them.
Neat! I am very interested in doing this some time. I didn’t know about the health features like the lactose intolerance etc. very cool! I wouldn’t want to know about the diseases though. I’m in the camp of ignorance is bliss on that part since at this point you can’t change it.