The benefits and the costs of home DNA tests – Health and Happiness –

Posted: May 28, 2020 at 12:46 pm

Photo: Contributed

Is the wealth of information about your individual health risks worth the anxiety of knowing?

DNA testing kits have made it possible to access previously unmined information about your health. As a huge advocate of preventative medicine, Ive explored the pros and cons of accessing this wealth of information to see whether your spit is worth the price tag and the consequences.

Firstly, what is it? Companies like 23andMe offer a home-based saliva collection kit you spit in the tube and send it to the lab. From there, your DNA is extracted from the spit and a process called genotyping analyses the DNA.

You then receive a report with your health predispositions (diseases you are more likely to get due to your genes) and your carrier status of certain diseases, such as cystic fibrosis.

The most obvious benefit of getting your DNA tested is identifying your personal health predispositions. For instance, the report might indicate youre at risk of getting type 2 diabetes, or heart disease. With this information, you can make changes to your lifestyle to help prevent these diseases from occurring, such as quitting smoking, drinking less caffeine or eating less sugar.

Despite these benefits, it is important to consider the emotional stress of receiving unfortunate results. Finding out you are at high risk of Alzheimers has a huge emotional impact on an individual and their family, especially as there is little you can do to prevent it.

Personally, I wouldnt want to know Im at high risk for a disease I cant do anything about I think the anxiety the knowledge would cause wouldnt be worth the information.

Its also important to note that genealogy results arent definitive. For instance, they may identify the gene that can cause high cholesterol, which in turn can increase the risk of heart disease. However, the test doesnt take into account any other personal or environmental factors, such as your diet, exercise and lifestyle. Without input from your own family doctor or a genetic counsellor, the results cannot be taken as gospel.

The uses of genealogy DNA databases extend beyond personal use for health and ancestry information, and this is the part where I begin to question the safety of using these kits. Although companies have rigorous privacy policies, they do still keep your DNA and information in a database in order to identify future clients that may be within your family tree.

This data is vulnerable to hackers, but also to police and immigration officials. The CBSA uses genealogy DNA testing in an immigration setting to ascertain a persons identity, such as the country they originate from.

From the uses we know about, to those yet to be found Im not sure I want my DNA in a database with unknown potential.

There are also important financial implications that accompany genetic testing, such as the fact that some insurance companies now say you must disclose any genetic risk information you are aware of, which can mean higher premiums for health, life and travel insurance.

Having mused over the idea for several weeks, with my mouse hovering over the Add to Cart button more than once, Ive decided genetic testing is not for me, for now. I personally dont think you should need a genetic test to tell you to live a healthier lifestyle to exercise more, eat more greens and get better sleep.

If its something youre thinking about, or have done, I would love to hear your thoughts on it. If not, take it from me get out for a cycle or a run, spend more time with your family and eat some broccoli with a smile on your face.

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The benefits and the costs of home DNA tests - Health and Happiness -

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