Finding your detailed ancestry, disease risk, and unique diet with affordable and easy genetic testing

Disclaimer: This is speculative information only. Any medical issue should be addressed by your doctor.

Genetic testing is incredible. You can spit into a tube and find out your entire genetic makeup in a few weeks. I’ve been thinking about getting genetically analyzed for a few months. I recently decided to pull the trigger. The whole experience has been fun and informative. I’ve learned about my ancestry, disease risks, what supplements are a good idea to take, how I respond to training, and what my optimal diet looks like.

While these reports give some valuable insights. Genetics are not a standalone indicator of anything. What your DNA looks like doesn’t have much practical relevance until it become physically expressed in your body. That being said, DNA can tell you a lot about trying out new foods, supplements, exercises, or anything that affects you physically.

The test

For $199, 23andme mails a testing kit and analyze your genes. The test is based on a saliva sample. The process takes about 5 minutes, you pack it in their self-addressed paid box, and send it back.

In about a month I received reports from 23andMe on my ancestry and genetic markers, along with access to a raw .txt file containing my entire genetic makeup, over 500,000 alleles that make up my unique DNA.

While the 23andMe website is lackluster, there are several sites that offer free or inexpensive analysis of your raw data. I will explore a few below.

Try out 23andMe here to get access to all these results now.

Ancestry

The ancestry portion of 23andMe is robust. It’s clear I’m almost entirely European: 97.2%. I’m primarily Italian (60%) and Irish (16%) with smaller lines of French, German, Iberian, Eastern European, and Middle Eastern.

Upon further analysis with http://www.interpretome.com/, I found detailed graphs of my lineage based on region. This recognizes me as similar to the genetic signature of Northern Italians.

In my trace ancestries, for my miniscule African lineage I resemble the Mozabite peoples of the Northern Sahara (Algeria). In Asia, I most resemble the peoples of Northern Pakistan (Kalash and Pathan.) Sounds about right, I likely have at least one relative within 5 generations back from at least one of these places from what I know.

Digging deeper

Genetics is a fast growing field with tons of research being updated. Research is publicly accessible. Unfortunately, 23andMe is not permitted to compare your genetic data with the current research materials. You’ll have to go elsewhere for this. 23andme’s report has 30 genetic markers. Most of it is novelty stuff like hair color. The raw report they give you has nearly 10,000x more information buried within. You can unlock it on several third-party sites.

Promethease

The first place to dig into your genetic reports is Promethease.com. For $5, you can connect your entire genome to SNPedia, a site dedicated to maintaining a public database of diseases and traits associated with the different mutations you have in your genes. Promethease tags all possible variations in genes (called  polymorphisms) and will links them to current research reports. Their database allows you to see what diseases and physical traits your genes predispose you to. With over 500,000 alleles, many are not catalogued and even more don’t have enough research for you to make any reliable conclusions. Promethease will allow you to sort your results by the strength of the current research. How to use this site is beyond the scope of a single article. I will say that their search tags are very helpful. You can sort through your 100k+ alleles for the genes that other sources (such as National Geographic, NutraHacker, or Dr. Amy Yasko) have determined to be key. You can also sort your alleles by disease, trait type (weight management, skin color, Vitamin D levels, etc…)

Some of reliable genetic markers I have indicated:

My susceptibility levels to certain cancers, diabetes, and heart disease. I learned I’m part of a small portion of the population with an enhanced tasting ability. I learned the way my body responds to various drugs and caffeine more or less than others. My genetic report confirms that my body has a strong likelihood of processing caffeine more quickly (and therefore more intensely I think) than other people.I have never liked drinking coffee because I considered myself sensitive to it. I have a somewhat conflicting report on my propensity to a few different diseases.

The diet guide

The guys at Rockstar Research put together is flow chart, based on genetic research, that supposedly tells you how you should train (High intensity or not?) and what types of food (low fat vs low carb) you should eat. This chart seems to be verified by lots of people online, but I can’t speak to it’s effectiveness. The idea is cool and I’ve been implementing what I learned from it. You can quickly look up all those alleles found in the chart by using this page on 23andMe.  Based on my preliminary results, I think I’m seeing some good improvement from the recommendations on the chart. But, I don’t have a large dataset to prove anything definitively.

http://rockstarresearch.com/
from http://rockstarresearch.com/

Decodify.me

This is another site that, for $10, parses your genetic data and makes recommendations for supplements. Supplementation should start from symptoms and blood testing, though. Not genetics. This site will quickly tell you which of your genes are rare. Don’t confuse that with most important, though. It hasn’t been the most helpful compared to the other sites mentioned.

Genetic Genie

Genetic genie focuses on genes associated with the methylation cycle. Methylation is the process by which the body converts various vitamins and compounds into useable energy and resources for your body. Various genetic alterations can make your body more or less likely to process certain vitamins and foods. Genetic Genie is a quick way of looking into your unique genetic makeup with regards to the methylation cycle.

I’ve found, not surprisingly, I’m susceptible to high dopamine levels (high energy, heavy emphasis on data and analysis, obsession with progress). I also have difficulty methylating certain types of Vitamin B and D. This probably means I should be supplementing them. I can confirm this with blood levels I’ve recently seen.

Nutrigenomics

There is a burgeoning field called Nutrigenomics focusing on the practical application of genetic research with regards to nutrition. While the research is still nascent, it does seem to be significant. Everyone has unique genes that affect the way they process their food. This can also mean that not everyone should be eating the same diet. Sorry Dr. Atkins, not everyone will benefit for low carbs. It seems that a huge reason for the failure of some people’s diets may be due to their consumption of the wrong ratio of nutrients.

 

For the true nerds, this page seems to be the most robust online. It is referenced several places. That page will allow you to find your unique methylation challenges and make recommendations on how to optimize the.

 

I won’t dig deep into the weeds but I will go through a few things I found to show examples.

 

  1. I have the COMT +/+ mutation. This means I likely hold on to more dopamine than usual. I probably shouldn’t have too much caffeine and things like meditation may be particularly useful. I also probably shouldn’t take a lot of pre-methylated B12, because my body already likely overproduces that.
  2. I have the MTHFR mutation which means my body is not good at methylating Folic Acid into. Luckily, I can supplement with Folate that has already been methylated.

Nutrahacker

The last site I’ll mention. Nutrahacker analyzes your 23andMe data and makes more recommendations of foods/supplements to take or avoid based on your genetic structure.

Here’s a sample report. I would skip the paid version and use the Nutrahacker tag when browsing Promethease. You’ll save money.
Disclaimer: This is speculative information only. Any medical issue should be addressed by your doctor.