And the DNA test reveals… pt.2

The results are finally in!

Opening the App I could feel a genuine rush of excitement mixed with a slight tinge of apprehension with multiple “what if?” scenarios running through my head.

The first thing I was met with was the Ancestry section. 100% European. This was very underwhelming. Having claimed to be half Zimbabwean most of my life through maternal roots, I have to say I was hoping for something a bit more exotic.

Digging a little deeper into the ancestry and I see that I am apparently 27% German. This left me and my family scratching our heads as to where this could possibly have come from – have the scientists over at 23andMe HQ gotten confused by a loose Dutch connection?

“We did not detect enough evidence of recent ancestry from Austria, Belgium, France, Luxembourg, the Netherlands, or Switzerland.”

Apparently not.

Now you may think I’m being side-tracked by ancestry when I’d originally declared that my interest lies in the Health reports, but there is an important point to make. These surprising ancestry results actually dented my satisfaction by reducing a cornerstone the product relies on: trust. If consumers are going to buy into this service they simply have to trust that the information they receive back is as close to factual as can be, otherwise it is just a slick interface overlaid on some guestimations.

Luckily as I worked my way through the 35 different reports on ‘Traits’, the trust was clawed back. I do have brown eyes, I do prefer salty to sweet and my ring finger is longer than my index finger. What is this witchcraft!?

A peculiar tension I feel about this product is that a clean bill of disease carrier status (while obviously very welcome) almost lowers the potential value I gain from it. On the one hand I should feel relief that I won’t be putting future children at risk of genetic abnormalities but on the other I am left questioning what I paid for?

The ‘Health Predispositions’ report and the ‘Wellness’ report contained some interesting nuggets but nothing that will keep me up at night, nor anything worth showing off about that I’ll be running to tell my friends about. I briefly let the muscle composition report get to my head when I read that I shared genes common in elite power athletes before realising it was a way of telling me I have a higher proportion of fast than slow twitch muscle fibres.

Part of the reason for signing up to this was to explore whether this could inform the future of my personal healthcare journey. My conclusion; if the service hits a critical mass whereby a sufficient proportion of the population’s DNA is stored on their database, and each person followed through with the detailed lifestyle research questions with honest answers, then I truly think many of life’s mysteries around nature vs nurture would be solved and disease prevention would progress leaps and bounds. These are very big ‘ifs’ and headlines such as this will not help their cause:

As my ‘before’ blog mentions, I wanted to find insight that would make me at least consider genuine lifestyle changes. I can report that there have been no lifestyle changes as of yet, but one result stood out for me and has potentially saved me hundreds of pounds over the next few years. Having obsessed over the very real danger of male pattern baldness since entering my early adulthood, my test has revealed I am unlikely to experience hair loss. This has meant the price tag of treatments claiming to help prevent it have become even more unattractive and I am even more unwilling to buy into them. But back to that question on trust… Perhaps this will be the ultimate test.

By: Nick Campbell

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