How To Interpret Your GENETICS
Many people today are having their genes tested through companies like 23andme to find out their ancestry or to find out if they have inheritable traits or risk factors for health conditions like heart disease or Alzheimer’s. 23andme is the largest genetic company with the most commercial marketing and easiest access, they advertise that they have 100’s of unique reports, which is true, but I think it leaves many people disappointed with their results.
Surely my genes have to tell me more than that, right?!?
While 23andme provides some good information, I think their value comes from downloading and interpreting your raw genetic data. When you get the raw data from 23andme you can run it through a variety of interpretation softwares found online. All you do is click on your profile and click “browse raw data” and then “download” and it drops a zip file of raw genetic data that might as well be in Chinese, but you can upload that data onto other sites pretty easily. I consider myself very….tech stupid….and I figured it out just fine. I personally have viewed my reports on 5 different sites and have found them all to be very unique. This podcast is an overview of how to get the best interpretation of your genes to actually impact your health. It’s a review of 5 different genetic analyzing softwares and my opinions on each - cost, pros/cons, value gained, etc.
VERY IMPORTANT THINGS:
I think it’s incredibly important to understand the importance of epigenetics before diving into genomics. Just because you have a “good” gene or a “bad” gene it does NOT mean that the gene is being expressed in your health. Epigenetics, or “above-genetic” is the study of how genes can be “triggered.” You (meaning your choices today!) can turn “good” or “bad” genes on or off through epigenetic switches, and these switches are influenced toxins, chemicals, diet, stress hormones, deficiencies, even your thoughts will influence your epigenetic expression. I strongly recommend reading Dr. Bruce Lipton’s work, especially The Biology of Belief.
It’s also important to understand that you have thousands of genes, and just because a report says you “may not convert vitamin A very well” or that you “have a slightly higher risk for late onset Alzheimer’s disease” does not mean very much. Many times you can find two conflicting genes, one that says don’t take a particular vitamin or supplement and another that says you need it, or you find one SNP that says you are high risk for a disease while 3 others say you have a low risk. It can be confusing and confounding! This science is relatively new and they have BY NO MEANS determined everything about your genes, these are all simply associations, and they are often very loose associations. You have to zoom out and not pay too much attention to each specific SNP. That’s similar to trying to figure out the picture on a 1000 piece puzzle by looking at one puzzle piece!
Glossary (courtesy of https://www.snpedia.com/index.php/Glossary)
Chromosome: The physical units of heredity; long linear strands of DNA. Humans normally have 46 chromosomes (23 inherited from Dad, 23 from Mom).
Gene: An area along a chromosome typically encompassing the information necessary to encode one protein.
Genomics: The study of all the genetic material in a species taken as a whole (well, to the extent possible anyway).
Genome: All of the genetic material in a species. The human genome is approximately 3,300,000,000 base pairs in length and is distributed amongst 23 types of chromosomes (chromosome 1 through 22, in order of size, plus the X and Y chromosome that determine gender.)
Heterozygote: As opposed to a homozygote for a given SNP or allele, a heterozygote is a person who inherited different forms from Mom and Dad. Example: at the SNP position known as rs16260, a person who inherits a (C) and an (A) is a rs16260(A;C) heterozygote.
Homozygote: As opposed to a heterozygote for a given SNP or allele, a homozygote is a person who inherits the same form from Mom and Dad. Example: at the SNP position known as rs16260, a person who inherits a (C) from both parents is a rs16260(C;C) homozygote.
Single Nucleotide Polymorphism (SNP; pronounced snip): A precise position along a chromosome where the DNA of different people may vary. Generally two alternate alleles are found at a particular SNP. The 1000 Genomes Project reported 84.7 million SNPs in the human genome (Nature, October 2015). The SNPs that have medical or health consequences for you and your loved ones are the focus of SNPedia.
Polymorphism: A sequence difference at a particular position. The alternative forms are called alleles.
www.23andme.com I think 23andme alone is pretty worthless, but it is where you can get the raw data. Their analysis will tell you certain things like “less likely to have a unibrow” and “more likely to be able to smell asparagus” and “slightly increased risk of macular degeneration”, but it’s very very simple. It can tell you about your ancestry, but that’s not the purpose of this podcast. The health information from 23andme is very simple and for the intended purpose of this podcast, 23and me is lacking. Unfortunately that is where most people stop!
www.promethease.com - $12 - This one gave me the least amount of information and was the hardest to navigate. May be great for researchers or clinicians who look into this stuff more than I do, but I did not find it useful. I don’t have much to say on this service.
www.nutrahacker.com Free Detox and Methylation Report, detects 58 SNPs. Mine found 13 SNPs, 5 were homozygous and 8 were heterozygous. Nutrahacker does a great job of giving you functional genes with functional recommendations. Detox and methylation genes can affect your body’s ability to do basically everything, and they can be supported (or slowed) by certain lifestyle factors. Nutrahacker does a great job of providing a simple report with easy-to-implement action steps, and is great for the price.
www.foundmyfitness.com/genetics - $10 - I found this one VERY useful! It’s a vastly extensive report linking evidence-based research to your SNPs, so it’s the most detailed report and of course includes all the popular genes like MTHFR, but also none of the other reports gave clear answers on incredibly important genes which I really cared about knowing such as SIRT genes, FOXO genes, APOE genes, and more - all of which are associated with longevity and disease risk. In the podcast I talk extensively about this option, I would say it’s my favorite one for the general public.
http://go.strategene.org/genetic-analysis - $45 - This one is really cool, they did a really good job so I don’t think the higher price is a rip-off by any means, I just don’t know if everyone will get the same value. I also really REALLY enjoy seeing the metabolic pathways these genes are involved with, and the report gives very specific drawings of the pathways with a key to indicate exactly where you you SNPs in each pathway. This one is great for the nerds like me. Strategene is the brainchild of Dr. Ben Lynch, so this test pairs great with his book Dirty Genes. If you haven’t read Dirty Genes, don’t do this test. If you have read the book, do this test.
I found a tremendous amount of value from combining all of these. I certainly don’t regret purcashing any of them, and I still may do something more like DNAfit.com in the future. Here is my opinion on what everyone should do to learn more about their genetics, in this order:
Purchase a 23andme.com test for $199 if you haven’t yet
Read Dr. Ben Lynch’s book Dirty Genes to understand genetics and more importantly epigenetics and what lifestyle factors can make your genes “dirty” or “clean”
Look over your 23andme genetic reports in detail first
Everyone should do Nutrahacker’s FREE Detox and Methylation Report
Everyone should do FoundMyFitness’s report for $10 Donation
Those who are really interested should do Strategene for $45