23andMe Review: Genetic Testing For Health, Fitness & General Interest

23andme review 6 - phil hawkswort

If you’re something of a curious so and so like myself, and you’re interested in optimum health or performance, you have probably wondered what your genetics really say about you.

In recent years, since the complete human genome was mapped, it has become possible to test your genetics and find out, among other things:

  • elevated health risks
  • presence or otherwise of certain genes
  • how your body will interact with environmental factors
  • background & familial heritage

What sounds like extremely complicated and expensive lab science is actually available to anybody, without prescription, in your own home, for a very reasonable fee.

Leading the way is a company called 23andMe.

I was recommended to have these tests done back when it first came on the market a few years ago, by the nutritionist/performance enhancement coach I was working with – which I mentioned at the bottom of this post on knowing your own body.

Review of 23andMe genetic testing

I will share some of my results that have either been of interest or had significant impact on how I live. It is interesting to have real data to compare to your lived experience and things that you may figure out accidentally or through trial and error.

Once you have had the tests done and you are in to the back end, results section of the site, it is broadly split in to two sections, health and ancestry.

23andme review - phil hawksworth

 

Health was of most interest to me, while I have had a look around the ancestry part, it was the health section that made me take the tests – the ancestry is just a cool added bonus.

Health overview

This is the ‘health overview’, which is basically the key data points for you, analysed and written up for the layman to understand.

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As you can see, each has a full report; 122 health risk reports, 63 traits, etc.

Raw Data

For the geeky among you, or if you have something serious you want to look at, rather than just general interest, you can view the raw data and then either have it intepreted by a pro (which is what I did), cross reference it with your own research on Pubmed, take it to your health care practitioner, etc.

Choose a chromosome…

This is my Y chromosome

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Or you can just download the whole lot of raw data in to a spread sheet and peruse it there.

All this data is nice, but what the F does it mean?

To make use of this, you are either going to need to work with an expert, or geek out on some serious research.

The biggest take aways for me were:

  • Fast caffeine metabolism – which I wrote about here and affects my daily life
  • Inefficiency in my detoxification pathways, I used to detoxify a lot through my skin, because other pathways didn’t work so good. This meant heavy drinking or stress would often give me spots, even in my early twenties. Targeted supplementation and breathing better help this (I’m also recommended to do cardio, but I kinda don’t)
  • Iffy estrogen metabolism – this means anabolics will wreak havoc with my hormonal balance and I would have to get my anti-estrogens spot on to not wind up with too much, or too little estrogen. Bitch tits, one does not want, if I were to go that route

It also confirmed some obvious things, like I’m not of an especially high fast twitch muscle fiber make up (no shit) and highly susceptible to male pattern baldness – cheers.

Data vs experience

Personally, I like to use a mixture of data and experience. I think expert opinion and experience is more valuable than raw science, on an individual level, but the data is really intriguing and definitely helps.

There is no harm, and great potential benefit to having the data. The beauty of genetic data is, unlike any other kind of testing, it will never change. I invested in this when I was 23 and it will be exactly the same when I am 73. I’m sure it will be of use throughout my life.

What about the heritage side?

I wasn’t especially interested in this, but I already knew the majority of what it told me.

I assume it would be really interesting if you didn’t know your heritage, especially if you’re from a single parent or orphan background.

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The best part, for the lolz – how neanderthal are you?

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How does it work?

Visit 23andMe, request your test kit, which costs $99 and will be sent to your home. Register your kit on the site and it will create your account. Send off your DNA (saliva sample) in the pre-paid envelope and they will contact you when your sample has been analysed and they have some results for you. Simple.

Additional notes

In the images I have just shown some of my results. There is detailed write ups on every page of what it all means and you can certainly learn a lot.

There’s a section where you can contact distant relatives who have also taken the test, if you were so inclined.

There’s a busy forum and thorough Q&A section, if you are really digging and doing the research, you will be able to find the answers and get some expert help to figure stuff out.

This is a very young and constantly evolving field, as such I get quite regular emails with updates of new things they have found in the research. Your data will be cross-referenced and updated with all of the new research as it becomes available.

If you want to get your own genome studied, hop over to 23andMe now. It has helped me tweak a few things that have improved my health and performance. More than worth the $99.

 

Note: The 23andMe links in this post are affiliate links

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  • Hey Phil, nice post, great thing for anyone to get along with regular blood work. Quick question though, did the test provide any information on markers that can influence sleep and your own circadian rhythm?

  • Hey Darren,

    I did a search for sleep and it just brought up markers for restless leg syndrome and narcolepsy.

    Circadian rhythm didn’t bring anything.

    However there is some threads in the community forum discussing different aspects of circadian rhythm and people comparing their own genome looking for links. I guess more information may come to light in time.

    You’d probably get more out of a panel that measures stress and melatonin/serotonin for things that affect sleep.

    I remember hearing there is a belief a few years ago that your circadian rhythm is set on where you are born – possibly mentioned by Robb Wolf (paleo guy), might be worth checking google scholar or pubmed to see if there’s anything to that.

  • krish

    I heard that they stopped health testing and do only the ancestor part.

    • I just checked the site out Krish, I’m not sure. They’ve certainly removed it from the front page as a selling point, but it’s still there in the back end. Unsure on the situation for new clients