In This Blog: I Unzip My Genes

On February 1st I sent a tube of my spit through the mail with the goal to have my genetics explored via the services offered by 23andMe. Today I got an email saying that my results were complete! And now we shall commence with examining the results.

23andMe, for those of you who don’t know, is a DNA testing service that provides customers an insight into their DNA. Pay for a kit, receive it, spit into the special tube, and send it back and within 6 – 8 weeks, you’ll receive an online report detailing 118 disease risks, 55 traits, 20 drug responses, and 44 carrier statuses.

Knowing a bit about the general health characteristics of my family, I had a few conjectures regarding what I thought the results would show in terms of disease risk:

What I thought would be higher risk than average – diabetes (it’s on both sides of my family), Alzheimer’s (also on both sides of my family), kidney stones and gout (my dad’s had both of these), and possibly high blood pressure (my dad has this, my mom’s had it intermittently)

What I thought would be lower risk than average – the cancers (there’s not a lot of any specific type or much cancer at all in my family) and coronary heart disease (NONE of this in the family).

I also had some guesses as to what some of my trait results would be:

I’m guessing my bitter taste perception is poor due to my extreme liking of broccoli and Brussels sprouts and the like.

If my anosmia is genetic, I’m guessing I’ll lack the genetic component responsible for detecting isovaleric acid, a sweaty-type smell.

I’m also guessing that I’ll show up as sensitive to at least a few of the drugs they examine, as I’ve had major reactions to pretty much every drug I’ve ever been on.

So those were my conjectures. Want to see what my DNA really says? Let’s break it down by category.

Disease Risk
Pretty much every single one of my major* results surprised me. I have almost double the average risk for—wait for it—gallstones. I also have elevated risk for macular degeneration, glaucoma, restless leg syndrome, and primary biliary cirrhosis.

Even more interesting to me are my decreased risk diseases. Alzheimer’s and diabetes, the two major issues in my family? Genetically, I’m at decreased risk for both of them (I’m at nearly half the average genetic risk for Alzheimer’s). The two ailments of my father, gout and kidney stones, are two other diseases for which I’m at decreased risk.  I’m also at low risk for rheumatoid arthritisceliac disease, lupus (sorry, House), and endometriosis.

A few things for which I  have average risk: obesity, coronary heart disease (interesting…), chronic kidney disease, atrial fibrillation.

Now we come to what, in my opinion, was the really fun stuff to look at. Here are a few that surprised me/were pretty interesting.

As I expected, I have “about an 80% chance of not being able to taste certain bitter flavors.” This makes me “taste blind” to the bitterness of foods of the cabbage family.

I am “likely tolerant” of lactose, which makes sense. I’ve never had a problem with dairy, even when I used to drink at least a glass of milk a day.

According to one marker for intelligence, my IQ performance should be about 3 points higher than average.

I am a “likely sprinter,” which means that I’ve got one gene that is turned on in a type of muscle fiber used for power-based sports (a fast-twitch muscle fiber). I’ve never worked out with sprints (I’ve always run long distances)…perhaps I should give it a try.

I AM sensitive to isovaleric acid, the sweaty-type odor. Perhaps my anosmia is physical/structural and not genetic? Obviously this one marker isn’t responsible for all olfaction, but still.

I have typical sensitivity to pain.

I am at slightly higher odds of developing tuberculosis if I were to be exposed to it.

Drug Response
DRUGGGS! This whole category surprised me. Of the 20 drug responses they test for, the only drug for which I showed increased sensitivity to was Warfarin, a blood thinner.

What am I missing…oh yeah, the carrier statuses. Of the 44 tested for, I don’t carry any of the diseases/deficiencies.

So what does all this mean, then? It probably won’t be bad genes that kill me, so I’ll either have to slog through to old age or dive in front of a bus.


*23andMe denotes “elevated risk” and “reduced risk” as cases where an individual’s risk due to genetics is 20% or more above average for the disease or 20% or more below the average for the disease, respectively.

5 responses

  1. Cool stuff! Having talked about 23andMe I know there is a lot more to the test results than this, but understandable why you shared what you did.


    1. I think my mom’s going to get hers tested later this year, so I’ll probably have more to share once she and I are able to compare our genes. :)


  2. This is really really interesting. I had no idea such a service existed. Thanks a lot! I am having fun stalking your blog backwards.


    1. You’re welcome! Thanks for all the comments and blog stalking. :)
      I’ll definitely check yours out once I get home from work.


  3. […] My genetics and health risk factors, according to […]


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