Health & Wellness/6 January 2020, 4:00pm/PROFESSOR ANNEKE LUCASSEN *BY ARRANGEMENT ONLY *
Have you any idea what health conditions plagued your great-aunt, why your grandmother walked with a limp, or what your great-grandfather died of?
Probably not. Most people know little about the health problems of family members. But researching the medical family tree often gives a better clue to what the future might hold for us than the home DNA tests that have become so popular.
Around 12.5 million people worldwide bought a home DNA test in 2018 more than double the number in the previous year and many even buy them as Christmas gifts for loved ones.
A recent poll by the medical technology firm ANCON found that four percent of healthy people in the UK have now had some form of genetic testing to find out their predispositions to disease.
At the same time, about a fifth of people in the UK know nothing about their parents medical histories, while 57 percent are not aware of their grandparents or great-grandparents health problems. And this, I think, is much more useful information than that which a home DNA test will provide.
The tests promise to tell you everything, from how likely you are to develop cancer to which sport you should play to get fitter, on the basis of a saliva sample.
Im not saying home DNA kits will never be helpful, but I think the information you can get from talking to a great-aunt, dad or grandma about the illnesses that are known to have afflicted your family is often more informative.
The usefulness of genetic testing depends on context. For a baby born with lots of health problems, for example, a genetic test might be helpful for finding out why theyre so sick.
But using the genetic code of a healthy person to predict what illnesses they may get in the future will produce very vague results.
This is because our genetic codes are very noisy; we each have four million variations and, on paper, some might look very alarming, but actually most of them wont affect health at all.
Genetic tests look at which variations we have in our genes, but, often, we dont know enough about these to be sure of which ones matter for our health.
Even for genes we understand, we still dont know enough.
For instance, we know some variations of the BRCA gene will result in a high risk of breast cancer, but there are other variations of the gene that we dont understand.
Furthermore, genetic variations dont work in isolation they often need other factors to be present in order to cause a problem. Diet, exercise, smoking, alcohol consumption, even pollution may influence whether a person with a genetic risk factor goes on to develop a disease.
Of course, genetic kits can be useful. However, for generally healthy people, who dont have a family history that suggests a genetic condition, a home test often is not the best way of predicting what their health has in store.
Most conditions are not caused only by genetic factors: so even if you do have an increased genetic risk of developing a disease, very rarely does it mean that youre definitely going to get it. For instance, some home genetic tests check for a particular gene variation thats a risk factor for Parkinsons disease, but only six percent of people who have the variation will develop Parkinsons disease by the age of 80.
And, sometimes, home genetic tests simply get it wrong, especially when people look at the "raw data", i.e. simple figures rather than the results fully explained in a report by the company.
Just as researching the family tree has become popular, maybe we should talk to our families about their health, and leave genetic testing for the things its best at: diagnosing people who are already unwell, or for determining whether someone with a strong family history of a disease really has anything to worry about.
- Weight loss story: This guy followed the Keto diet and lost 11 kilos in just 2 months! This is his diet - Times of India - February 24th, 2020
- Five ways to improve flexibility - The Guardian - February 24th, 2020
- How to lose belly fat: 6 easy ways to burn visceral fat, feel fitter and reveal your abs in 2020 - T3 - February 24th, 2020
- The importance of checking your blood pressure regularly - FOX 31 Denver - February 24th, 2020
- Staying heart healthy: What you need to know at the end of Heart Health Month - KRDO - February 24th, 2020
- Two Million People Could Be Diabetic In The Next 5 Years: Know The Best Preventive Tips For Keeping Type 2 Diabetes Away - Doctor NDTV - February 24th, 2020
- Signs Of Heart Disease When There Are No Obvious Symptoms - KERA News - February 24th, 2020
- Mediterranean diet scores another win for longevity by improving microbiome - CNN - February 24th, 2020
- The Sirtfood Diet: The 411 On Adeles Weight Loss Method - Momtastic - February 24th, 2020
- Signal of high blood pressure that you can find surprisingly in your hair - NewsDio - February 24th, 2020
- Prevention is key to maintaining a healthy heart - centraljersey.com - February 22nd, 2020
- Human Condition: When that long walk for exercise takes you to the ice cream parlor - The Advocate - February 22nd, 2020
- The Old Guy: Loving support for a partner with health concerns - SILive.com - February 22nd, 2020
- Foods That Help Ease Menopausal Symptoms - Everyday Health - February 22nd, 2020
- The Full List of Foods You Can Eat on the Noom Diet - GoodHousekeeping.com - February 22nd, 2020
- Kelly Ripa, 49, Quit Drinking and Eats an Alkaline Diet to Look and Feel Her Best - Prevention.com - February 22nd, 2020
- Mark Spitz: The Real-Life Diet of the Legendary Swimmer Who Still Does Imaginary Races Against Michael Phelps - GQ - February 22nd, 2020
- Father Forced His 9-Year-Old Daughter to Adopt Strict Diet and Exercise Regimen - Distractify - February 22nd, 2020
- Looking to Build a Stronger Butt? Here Are 5 Foods to Eat (and 2 to Avoid) - LIVESTRONG.COM - February 22nd, 2020
- How to lose visceral fat: The alternative exercise proven to reduce harmful belly fat - Express - February 22nd, 2020
- Fad of Matching Diet to DNA Ineffective, New Study Shows - The Great Courses Daily News - February 22nd, 2020
- Chin up vs pull up: what's the difference, muscles worked and WHAT IS THE BEST ONE? - T3 - February 22nd, 2020
- Flexitarian diet: All you need to know about this balanced diet option - Republic World - Republic World - February 22nd, 2020
- The Irish Times view on the Mediterranean diet: good for the gut - The Irish Times - February 22nd, 2020
- Benefits, fun can be found by getting fit in a group - The Robesonian - February 22nd, 2020
- DNA Diet Hailed as Key to Weight Loss, But Don't Bet Your Genes On It - Celebrity Health & Fitness - February 22nd, 2020
- Tips on using diet and exercise to prevent heart disease - WISHTV.com - February 19th, 2020
- Exercise Makes It Easier To Maintain A Healthy Diet, Doesnt Cause Increased Appetite - Study Finds - February 19th, 2020
- Mediterranean diet scores another win for longevity by improving microbiome - KTVZ - February 19th, 2020
- As Wave of Baby Boomers Enter Retirement, Journey Capital and SilverPoint Senior Living Team Up to Build Modern Senior Living Communities - PRNewswire - February 19th, 2020
- Personal trainers given tools to spot 'red flags' of eating disorders - The Sydney Morning Herald - February 19th, 2020
- How to eat, sleep, train and boost your mood during your menstrual cycle - Telegraph.co.uk - February 19th, 2020
- Weight loss tips: How to combine intermittent fasting & keto to lose weight, as per this guy who lost 33 kg - GQ India - February 19th, 2020
- Joel Reece encourages students to know their eating habits and avoid excessive refined carbohydrates - Ke Alakai - February 15th, 2020
- What Really Happens to Your Body When You Lose 10 Pounds - LIVESTRONG.COM - February 15th, 2020
- Gearing up for my annual battle with cabin fever - Lake Placid Diet by Andy Flynn - LakePlacidNews.com | News and information on the Lake Placid and... - February 15th, 2020
- Various classes offer students and community opportunities to practice mindfulness - University of Virginia The Cavalier Daily - February 15th, 2020
- What we can all learn from Henry Cavill's health and wellbeing rituals - harpersbazaar.com - February 15th, 2020
- Using the bodys natural cycle to improve shift workers health - Medical News Today - February 15th, 2020
- Disordered Eating and Compulsive Exercise in Collegiate Athletes: Applications for Sport and Research - United States Sports Academy Sports Journal - February 15th, 2020
- Springfield Hospital Looks To Sever Ties With Clinics In Bankruptcy Plan - Vermont Public Radio - February 15th, 2020
- Following a keto diet could weaken your bones and increase your risk of injury - Luton Today - February 15th, 2020
- Start your Health Journey with Live Well Exercise Clinic - North Shore News - February 15th, 2020
- NewsRadio 1120 KMOX Released an Interview With STL Beds Owners and Family Members Dave and Doug Belleville - PR Web - February 15th, 2020
- Leg Cramps on Keto: Causes, Treatment, and More - Healthline - February 15th, 2020
- Horoscope today: Here are the astrological predictions for February 14 - Mumbai Mirror - February 15th, 2020
- Gwen Stefani Reveals 15 Things She Does To Look So Young - TheThings - February 15th, 2020
- Everything you need to know about carbs - 9Honey - February 15th, 2020
- The Best Diet And Fitness Tips Kate Middleton Swears By - Women's Health - February 12th, 2020
- Is there a connection between diabetes and heart health? - Monitor - February 12th, 2020
- FHN News: 20 tips for a healthy heart this Valentines Day - Freeport Journal-Standard - February 12th, 2020
- Bob Roper | The fires of California: Past the tipping point? - YubaNet - February 12th, 2020
- This Research-Backed Trick Can Help Healthy Eating Stick - Runner's World - February 12th, 2020
- How to live longer: Do this much exercise each week to increase your life expectancy - Express - February 12th, 2020
- Steps to Improve and Maintain Your Heart Health - DeKalb Daily Chronicle - February 12th, 2020
- This Man Lost 82 Pounds Through Fasting and Tackling the Carnivore Diet - msnNOW - February 12th, 2020
- Reducing the Risks - outsmartmagazine.com - February 12th, 2020
- Intermittent fasting is the best diet for weight loss, but the Mediterranean diet is easier to stick to and healthier overall, study finds - Business... - February 12th, 2020
- What is the alkaline diet and can it lead to weight loss? - ABC News - February 12th, 2020
- Embracing Your Postpartum Body And Ignoring The Pressure To "Bounce Back" - GirlTalkHQ - February 12th, 2020
- Phillip Schofield fitness: This Morning presenter reveals how he stays in shape - Express - February 12th, 2020
- Diabetes support group's good start The Voice - The Spalding and South Holland Voice - February 12th, 2020
- Lifestyle secrets of some of the worlds oldest people - Daily Nation - February 12th, 2020
- Executives reveal which fad diets actually work - The Australian Financial Review - February 12th, 2020
- A Cigarette in One Hand and a Fitbit on the Other - Medscape - February 12th, 2020
- These 4 Industries Trending for Growth This Year - Small Business Trends - February 9th, 2020
- Beyond Drug Therapy: Comprehensive lung cancer treatment approach at Ohio State integrates diet, exercise, physical therapy and relaxation techniques... - February 9th, 2020
- The power of aerobic exercise - The New Times - February 9th, 2020
- Lose visceral fat: How to get rid of the dangerous belly fat - four steps to follow - Express - February 9th, 2020
- Weight loss: Expert reveals fat-busting diet plan - what can you eat? - Express - February 9th, 2020
- Happy Meals: Making Positive Change To Diet Also Helps Ward Off Depression - Study Finds - February 9th, 2020
- What is the effect of optimism on diet quality? - Medical News Bulletin - February 9th, 2020
- Lifestyle secrets of some of the world's oldest people - nation.co.ke - February 9th, 2020
- Coronavirus: What parents should know and do - Harvard Health Blog - Harvard Health - February 9th, 2020
- Psychiatric practice opened in The Mill - observer-me.com - February 9th, 2020
- Add Fat to Diet the Healthy Way by Avoiding These Common Mistakes - LIVESTRONG.COM - February 9th, 2020
- Save Money: Lose Weight: Are the Eat Yourself Healthy and Pegan diet easy to follow? - Express - February 9th, 2020
- The art of ageing gracefully - Daily Pioneer - February 9th, 2020
- Compare popular diets in one place with the help of a nutritionist - ABC News - February 9th, 2020
- Taylor Swift And The Gray Area Of Disordered Eating - BuzzFeed News - February 9th, 2020