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Everything you need to know about those popular genetic tests

There’s been a huge spike rise in popularity of genetic testing in recent years.genetic testing is appealing because you can find out so much about yourself- after all, it’s your individual and unique dna being analyzed, so the results are unique to you. Sounds simple right?? Wrong. It’s a fascinating science, very complicate, let’s break down what you can trust and what to be wary of when it comes to self-testing genetic kits.. Here is the breakdown of what genetic testing is and different types of tests out there, how they work, and the limitations so that you can decide if it’s right for you!

Some kits require a cheek swab and some, you have to spit into a container

Disease/condition specific- these kits test for your genetic risk of developing common diseases such as celiac disease or alzheimer’s. Often conditions such as these are associated with a specific gene mutation that is present in those who have already developed the illness. Risk is an important term here though- not everyone who has the gene will go on to develop these. However, it can be helpful to know the likelihood so that you can make lifestyle changes appropriately to reduce your risk.

Ancestry

This has become immensely popular recently by the brand ancestry and me. These tests compare your dna to older dna samples to find clues about your ancestry in terms of geographical origin, race, and connections between families (royalty is a popular one). Interesting, when they were compared to each other in a small study in the us, the same dna used for all kits showed different ancestral roots for the same genetic material. That is suspect and needs to be looked at. Also, the data you are handing over in these self-tests, especially in the u.s. are being mined by marketing companies, advertisers and the government to track health, and lifestyle patterns, migration around the world. For some people that’s a problem.

Kinship

These are similar to ancestry but apply specifically to another person. Two dna samples are compared to determine similarities. The most well-known of these are paternity tests, but can determine a number of associated family relationship. This is the classic maury povich “he’s not the father” tests you have watched for the past 20 years on t.v.

General health and lifestyle

The newest wave of genetic testing is much more applicable to everyday life. Genetic markers can reveal a ton of information about how are body is programmed to enjoy sleep, specific eat, exercise, and more! Because the information is so individual, it can help to make health choices that work better with your body- such as sleeping more, choosing a skincare regimen, exercising more optimally to burn calories or build muscle. This a rapidly growing industry as more information becomes available.

Exercise

There is definitely a market here for athletes and pseudo-athletes who want to get an advantage and learn if they have any “achilles heels” that are affecting their training and ability to perform better. And literally it could be their achilles heels, this is an area we can see genetic information about showing if you have an increased risk of tearing this tendon, which can be a completely debilitating injury. These tests can show if you have an advantage for strength or endurance training, what your motivation for exercise is like (low or high) and how your body’s metabolism is affected by the exercise itself compared to other genetic patterns.

Nutrition

Falling under the health and lifestyle category, genetic nutrition tests can tell you how well you process certain food groups or ingredients- such as protein or vitamins, or how your body manages weight. It can also tell you about sensitivities, such as caffeine, lactose, or gluten. One of the main tests in this category is nutrigenomix, which was launched at the university of toronto in 2012. This kit tests 44 genetic markers for metabolism and fitness, and results are explained by a health professional such a dietitian so that they can be implemented into your life.