DNA Test Kits: Misconceptions Abolished!
April 13, 2019
As of recent, the internet is flooded with misinformation about DNA kits. There are many companies who supposedly help you fix your nutrition and training based on your DNA profile. In other words, you will adapt to what your genetic material dictates, over the lifestyle you have chosen for yourself and the nutrition and training you have decided to undertake.
I thought it was doesn’t sound right, and went to research what in fact is a DNA test kit and in what ways could it contribute to your life (and not the opposite).
So, the first question that came to mind was –
How can I improve my overall health with DNA kits?
The answer was, quite simply this (rephrased in layman’s terms, of course).
Your overall health is determined by a large number of factors, and many of them have a basis in genetics. Your DNA codes for proteins, which are the molecular machines of the cell. These proteins create and maintain other molecules and interactions, allowing the cell to survive. In this simplistic view of biology, DNA is extremely important.
But unfortunately, biology is not that simple. On top of the basic blueprint of your genetic code is what scientists refer to as epigenetics. Epigenetics, as a field, is the study of how genes are regulated, affected, and changed by the environment they exist in. Gene regulation and expression are complex subjects and influenced by a number of factors such as oxygen concentration and pH balance.
In simpler terms, everything that you do – such as exercise or your eating habits – influence the environment your cells exist in and change their expression. In light of all this complexity, selecting the best DNA home test kit for your needs can help you begin to understand the role of genetics and reveal what steps you can take to help you improve your overall health.
The second question was –
What Can DNA Kits Tell Me About My Health?
The answer, was surprisingly positive. These kits can in fact contribute to your health, but not fix up your training or nutrition.
Just as regular blueprints inform a carpenter on how to build a house, your genetic blueprint is what your cells have as a starting point on how to operate. Thus, many things that can affect your overall health are directly linked to your DNA.
Many traits are caused by easily identifiable abnormalities in the DNA or are only regulated by a small number of genes. Other health traits, such as your ability to lose weight, the risk of getting cancer, and overall health are determined by a much larger number of genes. When DNA kits analyze traits like these, they are basing the information off of correlations between certain genetic variants and the trait observed in a population. Several basic categories of health testing exist.
Carrier status testing is one of the oldest forms of genetic testing. Certain genetic disorders were discovered long before modern DNA test kit technology. This is because genetic disorders often run in families. Many of these disorders are largely based on a single gene or abnormal chromosome pattern. Diseases like Tay-Sachs, sickle cell anemia, and cystic fibrosis are all caused by single-gene traits. Tests for whether you carry these known genetic variants are very accurate and informative.
Many companies offer a number of tests claiming to analyze your disease risk, based on certain genetic markers. While this can be informative for your health, you should first understand that even the most well-supported DNA kit analysis is still just a probability calculation. Further, complex diseases like cancer can be caused by a large number of various genetic conditions.
For example, take the BRCA genes, commonly studied for their involvement in breast cancer. These genes are known to increase your risk for certain types of breast cancer. Yet, another study found that only around 10% of people with breast cancer actually had the BRCA mutations . These tests will make you aware of specific risks, but generally, your overall risk is relatively unchanged.
Other Health-Related DNA Home Kit Options
Recently, there has been an explosion in the amount of genetic research being done. As such, the number of correlations scientists are finding between genes and traits is increasing exponentially. Several companies offer DNA kits for exploring these more fringe correlations, which may also inform you of your overall health.
A DNA test kit is this category can be analyzing a wide variety of different traits from metabolism to weight predisposition. Depending on how well-researched the correlations and theories behind the tests are, these can be quite revealing. The results may be less supported than others, but when taken as a guideline and not a rule, they may help you in your quest for good health.