DNA testing, once the primary domain of labs performing diagnosis for specific genetic diseases, is now everywhere. You can spit into a collection tube and DNA can be extracted from your saliva and analysed to tell you about your ancestry, your risk for certain genetic diseases and odd traits like whether mosquitos are more likely to bite you, or whether you are more likely to prefer salt over sweet foods.
Genealogical research till now involved searching out old records to trace back your ancestors. For many of us reliable data going back more than a couple of generations was hard to find. After a flurry of enthusiasm to track his family tree prior to my husband’s death, I put family tree research on the back burner for a long time.
Now thanks to DNA tests, every few days I get an email from one of the genealogical sites I subscribe to, telling me that more genetic relatives have been found. And this has hugely renewed my interest in exploring the different branches of the family tree though right now I don’t have time to do the kind of follow up that I would like to.
But all sorts of other DNA testing programs have sprung up with myriad companies indicating that their unique testing can provide insights into various aspects of your health such as the best foods to eat, what exercise programs might be best for you, or what supplements you should be taking.
Deoxyribonucleic acid or DNA, is the template for your cells to make the thousands of different proteins in your body. Somewhere around 21,000 genes coding for specific proteins have been identified in the human genome. Some are structural proteins like collagens. Other proteins are enzymes that promote biochemical reactions, carrier proteins that transport stuff in your blood, hormones, and proteins involved in immunity, inflammation or blood clotting.
DNA consists of molecules called nucleotides that are strung together in a spiral ladder-like structure – the double helix. There are four nitrogen bases that pair up to form the ‘rungs’ of the ladder. Adenine pairs with thymine, cytosine with guanine. Although we have the same complement of genes, there is lots of genetic variation in individuals, thanks to single nucleotide polymorphisms (SNPs). An SNP means that one nucleotide base is substituted for another base at a particular spot in the gene or in the non-protein coding regions of DNA. A gene length may vary from a few hundred to a couple of million base pairs and there are millions of SNPs in an individual’s genome. Therefore the odds of having several SNPs in a gene are high. Researchers study these SNPs to determine whether they cause a functional change in the gene product.
After hearing from several people that they were advised to have DNA tests to customize their diet, assess lifestyle changes or get customized nutritional supplement recommendations my natural scientific skepticism kicked in. I decided to invest in test kits and evaluate the value for myself. I will reveal all in a later post.
If you want to learn more about your genetic blueprint and how epigenetics can change your aging leave a comment below, or email me privately at email@example.com