The Best Mom Gift I Gave Myself: DNA Health Analysis
I’ve always been amazed by people who can trace their family history back through the generations. I’ve never even seen a photo of my father as a child. Having my own children just increased my curiosity as I wondered where some of their features came from.
So I was excited to buy DNA analysis kits for me and my mom last Christmas and finally learn some of the details that are coded in our cells. I thought learning where my ancestors had come from would be the most interesting revelation I could share with my family, but I was wrong.
After I shared my ancestry results with a friend, she told me about Promethease, a site where I could upload my raw DNA sequence to be matched against the available scientific literature.
Basically, they compare my sequences to those that have been associated with various traits, diseases, and conditions. It’s not a predictor, but it identifies various potential risks at a genetic level. For example, my sequence revealed that I’m part of the 12% of the population who can lose weight with any type of exercise. I know, that’s awesome, right? There went any excuse I ever had to not workout.
Other quirky things I learned:
- I likely have increased anxiety in response to caffeine, so maybe it wasn’t just in my head that Coca Cola made me crazy.
- I am unable to smell asparagus metabolites in urine.
- I am able to taste bitterness which is probably why I don’t like coffee or dark beers but also probably enjoy lots of healthy food: ”This makes turnip, cabbage, brussels sprouts, broccoli, and other cruciferous vegetables taste more interesting and less horribly bland. Coffee and dark beers also tastes more bitter. You can taste propylthiouracil (PROP), PTC, and related chemicals. On the other hand, you can’t taste the unpleasant bitterness of the tropical fruit from the Bignay tree, it will taste sweet to you. You probably eat healthier.”
- I have better performing muscles: “Likely sprinter. This genotype indicates better performing muscles, particularly for sprinting and power sports. Fast-twitch muscle fibers are able to produce alpha-actinin-3. Professional sprinters usually have this, although it is less common for endurance athletes.”
- I carry the gene for blue and green eyes though no one in my family that I know has had them.
Besides these interesting things, I had lots of matches on diabetes and obesity, which I knew just from my knowing my family history. However, it’s one thing to see it in my relatives. It’s another to read it in my own DNA.
All the “bad” results made me feel my mortality in a good way.
Genetics are complicated, and how genes are expressed can be influenced by external factors. My genetic analysis has given me new motivation to make better choices on the aspects of my health that I can control. Despite my body being potentially predisposed to those conditions, I also carry genes that make it easier for me to eat well and see results from working out. Moreover, if I carry these genes, then it’s likely my kids do as well, so I try to focus on a healthy lifestyle.
The Promethease report was very long and pretty fragmented. The whole story of our DNA is still to be uncoded, but having this snapshot was definitely the most fun Christmas gift I bought last year.
Although there’s a lot about my ancestry I can’t share with my kids, it’s pretty cool that science is making it possible to share all sorts of genetic details.