It’s like astrology, but for your genes
It’s hard to deny the appeal of a DNA test. They offer a world of insights into our heritage, personality quirks and, increasingly, health markers. As their popularity grows, the bigger the databases to compare DNA against become, and the more accurate the results are. Process-wise, what used to feel like a lab-only experiment is now quite commonplace as we’ve become more familiar with the act of specimen-swabbing (and boy, have we).
While DNA tests can provide certain insights with a surprising level of accuracy (i.e., whether or not you like cilantro in your guac), your DNA is only one piece of the puzzle. Think of it this way: While a DNA test might reveal that you metabolize alcohol more quickly than others, how much you ate–or didn’t–that day will probably have a greater hand in determining the magnitude of your hangover after one too many glasses of vino. Environment and lifestyle choices play a large role in determining how our genes express themselves, meaning that many of the results generated are open to interpretation.
This makes the experience somewhat similar to reading your horoscope; you catch yourself seeking out recognizable bits of your personality in a sea of semi-vague information. Also like your horoscope, DNA test kits can help you paint a portrait of your identity and may inspire you to make some pretty significant lifestyle changes. They’re also just undeniably intriguing.
From gut health to how you respond to Tylenol, here are five wellness-focused kits for the DNA-curious to consider and what they’ll tell you about yourself.
Best for: Self-optimization
The kit: The DNA Company
The method: Saliva sample
Biohackers, this one’s for you. This Canadian start-up analyzed the DNA of more than 5,000 individuals (including a handful of elite athletes) to develop six reports based on your genome profile: cardiovascular, fitness, diet, sleep, mood and immunity. This DNA kit won’t tell you where you come from, or what your hair and eye colour is, but it does detail what your health triggers might be, and what you can do to support your body. You’ll learn things like your likelihood for lactose and gluten intolerance, if you’re prone to developing cystic acne and cellulite, your risk of high blood pressure, and even what your neurotic tendencies might be (really!). The report also suggests a diet and exercise program to help you optimize your overall performance. It’s more expensive, but the fee includes a one-on-one review with a health coach to discuss and identify red flags.
Best for: Gut Health
The kit: Viome test kit
The method: Fecal swab
Taking a swab of your feces is…interesting. But so are the results from this kit, which takes a snapshot of your gut’s microorganisms, which affect your digestive efficiency, metabolic fitness, biological age, energy levels, stress response and more. Get a closer look at the inner workings of your microbiome, including the health of your gut lining, how high your gas production is, and whether or not you are digesting proteins properly. Its app will offer a custom list of foods to eat, minimize and avoid to support your gut health, which can help improve sleep, skin, digestion and mental clarity. You also have the option to purchase a monthly subscription service to receive recommended supplements and probiotics. Note: Your gut profile, unlike your DNA, is always in flux. Results will vary each time you complete a gut microbiome test, so this kit needs to be repeated if you’re looking for updates.
Best for: Overall wellness
The kit: MyHealthyLife test kit
The method: Saliva sample
This DNA kit curates product and lifestyle recommendations based on six wellness reports, including nutrition, skincare, fitness and cognition. It’s transparent about the strength of evidence used to assess factors like intellect (strong evidence) to your maternal instinct and musical ability (not-so-strong), thanks to a 1-to-3-star rating scale included in each category. This kit is fairly new, so reports will be updated to include additional details on categories like sleep quality and flexibility as the platform develops. Bonus: You can bypass the sample and download your DNA data from other kits including 23andMe, Ancestry and MyHeritage to generate instant results. Sign up for the platinum membership and get additional insights, like how your body might respond to COVID-19, your fertility and whether or not you’re a carrier for certain hereditary diseases.
Best for: Medication management
The kit: Inagene test kit
The method: Cheek swab
Curious if you should take Advil or Tylenol, or if it even makes a difference? This pharmacogenetic testing kit by a Canadian start-up predicts your response to over 200 medications and drugs, from antidepressants to painkillers to cannabis. Results are grouped into three categories: “Do Not Use” “Use With Caution” and “Use As Directed” to help the user navigate the report (which can get a bit jargon-y) with ease. This kit is particularly useful if you take multiple medications, or are having trouble finding one that works for your condition. Reports are updated every six months to reflect new and ongoing research. If you want, you can share your report directly with your healthcare provider.
Best for: Building a family tree
The kit: AncestryDNA kit
The method: Saliva sample
Arguably the most recognized family history resource online, this kit provides an ethnicity estimate from over 1,500 regions to create a report of your heritage. One major draw is that the brand provides “DNA Matches” connecting the tester to living relatives that are plugged into the network. Testers can also deep-dive into their family histories and search through documents like census records, birth records, marriage records, immigration papers and military papers, and more. Canadians can now opt to purchase the AncestryDNA + Traits package, which offers insights into an additional 36 attributes influenced by your DNA, like if you’re sensitive to sweets or if you have the sprinter gene.
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