Saturday 2 May 2015

Exploring My Genetics with 23andMe...

You might well have seen the television adverts for this DNA Genetic Testing & Analysis company, 23andMe. By providing 23andMe with a saliva sample through their postal kit, they can analyse your DNA and give you reports on over 100 health conditions and traits, your inherited risk factors and how you might respond to certain medication. Isn't science an incredible thing?

I was so interested in the service they provide - it truly fascinates me that by spitting into a small tube someone can tell me so much about my health, body and genetic make-up. 

My fairly recent lifestyle change means that I now focus so much on my health and wellbeing: I've lost 6 stone 9 lbs and counting, now walk on average 26 miles per week, and try hard to eat a well balanced, moderate diet. I know that I've worked hard to improve my health, but was interested to know things about my health that a good diet and regular exercise don't have any affect on: my genetics. What could 23andMe tell me about myself that I didn't already know? Quite a lot as it turns out. 

I recently I put their service to the test and discovered loads of interesting things about my own DNA and genetic make up....

First lets go over how their service works.

How It Works

Firstly, you need to order your DNA collection kit through their website (or pick one up in your local Superdrug store) for £125. 

Once your kit has arrived follow the instructions on the pack to register your kit and create an account on the 23andMe website. Once you are registered you can fill your DNA sample tube with your saliva, and post it off. 

Please note: You must not drink, eat, smoke, chew gum or brush your teeth/use mouthwash for 30 minutes before you provide your sample. 

My kit arrives...

Next step: register your kit online...

Read the instructions carefully! 

My saliva sample - so amazing that they can tell me so much about myself from a tube of spit! 

This little video provides all the instructions on how to give your sample and post it off to 23 & Me successfully. 


There's no need to worry about your personal details and genetic results getting into the wrong hands; at 23andMe they take privacy extremely seriously, here's what they say & a link to their full Privacy Policy for you to have a peek at: 

"At 23andMe, we're committed to maintaining the security and confidentiality of your personal information. We've put security measures in place to help protect against the loss, misuse or alteration of information under our control. We use procedural, physical and electronic security methods designed to prevent people who aren't authorised from getting access to this information. Our internal code of conduct adds additional privacy protection. See our Privacy Policy for more information."

What I Discovered About My DNA:

It takes around 4-6 weeks for your sample to be analysed and for your data to be available in your account (which only you can log into). Mine took almost exactly four weeks to the day, and I was excited to log on and find out more about my genetics. 

I thought I'd provide you with a little snap shot of some of the random and interesting things I found out about my genetic make up using the 23andMe service... (I haven't included all my results here, just a sample of some of my more interesting results)

Genetic Risk Factors

I discovered that my DNA means I have typical risk of developing diseases such as Parkinsons and Ovarian cancer.

However, my DNA means I am at a slightly higher risk of developing Alzheimers Disease. As scary as that is, I think it is so important to know this about myself - it means that in the future my family and I can be vigilant in looking out for the symptoms of the disease. Hopefully, it will never be something I will have to face, but I like to have all the information, and I'm not one for burying my head in the sand. 


I have bitter taste perception.

I am lactose tolerant.

I am a carrier of the red hair gene. This means that if my partner is also a carrier of the gene we could have red-haired children. 

I am most likely to have blue eyes rather than green, if my eyes are non-brown. (They're blue!) 

I have moderately higher odds of smelling asparagus in my urine after eating it!! (I so do!!)

I should be typical height (I'm 5 ft 5, pretty typical I'd say!)

I should have a typical BMI - mine is 24, which puts me in the 'normal' category - boy, did that take some hard work! 

I have typical odds of preferring sweet foods to savoury. 

I have increased episodic memory (which means I'm good at recalling long lists). 

My genetic make up means that my muscle performance is in the category of "unlikely sprinter" - hahaha I loved this terminology! I am definitely not a sprinter!

I have increased sensitivity to pain. 

I have more skin freckling than average.

I have typical odds of disliking the taste of coriander. 

My waist circumference according to my DNA should be 0.88 cm (0.35 inches) smaller than the typical waist circumference for women.

I have moderately lower odds of going into early menopause. 

Response to Diet 

A diet high in monounsaturated fats ("mediterranean" style diet) is NOT likely to have beneficial effects on my BMI or waist circumference. 

I have typical odds of obesity on both a high & low saturated fat diet.

A high fat diet (30% of calories from fat) IS associated with a higher BMI for my genetic make up. 

Response to Exercise

My genetics mean I should have a tendency towards a lower BMI. Exercise is associated with a slight reduction in my BMI of about 0.85 units (about 5 lbs in a person 5' 7" tall, on average).

According to my results there would be little or no change in my glucose tolerance with regular exercise; this can be a precursor to diabetes (type 2). 

Decreasing my calorie intake and increasing my physical activity IS associated with weight loss for people with my genetic markers. I know this to be true after my recent 6 stone 9 lb weight loss from calorie counting and lots of exercise! 


The results made for really interesting reading, they were easy to understand, and all of the research into the studies that the results are based on are there for you to see as well as the results themselves. I found the whole process really enlightening, and reading through where my risk factors lie has made me even more determined to be the healthiest and best version of myself I can be. 

I have just 6 lbs left to lose to get to my 10 stone weight target, and I'm feeling better than ever!

If you'd like to know more about 23andMe why not visit their homepage or connect with 23andMe on their social media channels:

Bye for now 

Mrs B


Disclaimer: I was provided with the 23andMe DNA testing service free of charge for the purpose of this review, all words, opinions and photographs are my own.