What DNA testing can tell you about your health

What DNA testing can tell you about your health

Mention DNA tests and our thoughts are likely to jump to paternity testing or exploring family ancestry. But did you know that DNA testing can also help you manage your weight, check for the likelihood of developing a particular health issue or identify a potential intolerance or sensitivity to certain foods?

Our DNA can alter the way each of us digest, absorb and metabolise nutrients and play a part in determining the health of our organs, as well as impacting how likely we are to develop certain health problems.

Here we explore just some of the ways you can use DNA testing to benefit your health, from the comfort of your own home.

1. Weight management

How many times have you been frustrated when a diet that has worked brilliantly for a friend has made absolutely no difference to your weight loss efforts?

All of our bodies are different and react in different ways to different foods, so most of us have to rely on trial and error when trying to find a diet that works for us. The problem is that our diets are so multifaceted that it can be hard to know what has and hasn’t worked. Luckily, DNA dietary testing can eliminate some of this confusion and unpick the key factors that will improve your individual health and wellbeing.

The tests have been developed by medical experts to help you understand whether a particular genetic reason may be impacting your individual ability to lose weight.

Also known as nutrigenomics, DNA tests can tell us how our bodies uniquely respond to different nutrients. It works by testing for genetic markers to examine how we process fat, protein and carbohydrates - as well as other substances. This helps us understand how we can change our diets to aid weight loss, blood pressure control, lower cholesterol, improve our gut health and our overall health and wellness.

A good example is the FTO gene, which has 3 possible variants AA, AT or TT. Only people with the AA variant - just 1 in 5 people - will benefit from following a high protein diet, while for those with the AT or TT variant, the same diet will be ineffective. People with the FTO AA genotype also benefit from exercise to aid weight loss whereas for others, it may not produce the desired results, whereas, focussing on a low carb diet, a low-fat diet or switching from animal fat to plant fat could be more effective.

A DNA test can also identify other, specific reasons why you might be struggling to manage your weight. For example, your thyroid stimulating hormone level may be higher than average, or your body may not be able to metabolise certain nutrients¹, such as glucose.

2. Gut health

Most of us will have experienced some kind of digestive disorder at some point in our lives and know all too well how uncomfortable and embarrassing it can be, not to mention how difficult it is to know what’s causing the symptoms. A DNA test can help you identify whether you are likely to have one of the most common intolerances, lactose or gluten.

Lactose intolerance occurs when we don’t have the ability to digest the sugar that’s in milk past the age of 5. The LCT gene encodes for the enzyme that breaks down lactose. If your body doesn’t produce enough of this, it can lead to bloating and diarrhoea whenever you consume dairy products.

Wheat intolerance can be identified using the HLA gene to find out if you have the variant that puts you at a higher risk of developing coeliac disease, an allergy to gluten², the protein found in wheat, barley and rye.

3. Food sensitivities

As well as finding out your body’s sensitivity to food groups, taking a DNA test can also identify how you react to substances such as caffeine and alcohol – all important factors when controlling blood pressure and blood lipids.

Take caffeine for example. Differences in our CYP1A2 genotype determine whether we are able to metabolise caffeine quickly or slowly. While fast caffeine metabolisers may be able to drink 1 to 3 cups of coffee every day without any health issues, slower caffeine metabolisers should limit their caffeine intake to control their blood pressure and reduce the risk of heart problems.

Differences in our genes can also mean that some of us metabolise alcohol more slowly, which leads to higher levels of HDL cholesterol levels³. We all cope differently too with varying levels of sodium in our systems. While the majority of us will benefit from a low salt diet to lower blood pressure, for other genotypes there will be no benefit, and others may even experience increased blood pressure on a low salt diet.

4. Heart health

Getting a deeper understanding of your heart health and how your nutrition choices are likely to affect it can help you spot any potential risks of developing cardiovascular complications in the future.

A Heart Profile DNA Test focuses on how your individual heart health is influenced by your genes. Developed by expert scientists, the test will specifically analyse a range of genetic markers that are directly related to our heart and circulatory system to measure your level of risk of developing certain cardiovascular conditions.

Knowing now whether you are more likely to develop heart complications in future can help you make the necessary changes to your diet and lifestyle before you have any issues⁴.

5. Vitamin or mineral deficiencies

We all know that a good, balanced diet will give us most of the vitamins and minerals we need for our bodies to function effectively, but it can be difficult to know if we’re getting enough of the right foods to stay healthy.

Our DNA test has been developed by experts to help you identify any potential vitamin or mineral deficiencies - including Vitamin D and iron - you may have and will give you advice on how to increase your intake if needed⁵.

6. Understanding blood sugar response

Glucose is a type of sugar and is your body’s main source of energy. Severely low or high glucose levels can lead to major health problems so it can help to understand your body’s unique response to blood sugar.

Variations in our genes can affect all sorts of things - including our insulin secretion, zinc intake and B-cell function - all of which have an impact on the glucose levels in our blood.

Taking a DNA test may indicate whether you have a genetic predisposition to impaired glucose levels and, if so, what that means for you⁶.

Are the DNA tests easy to use?

A DNA test is really easy and comfortable for you to use in your own home. Simply take a quick cheek swab and send it off to our UK laboratory for processing. You’ll receive your results along with clear, actionable, advice via our secure website platform within 10 working days.

The quick and easy tests will help you get a deeper understanding of your body as part of your journey to better health. But remember, your DNA results are only a piece of the puzzle. These tests do not give a diagnosis but will indicate whether you’re more likely than others to develop certain sensitivities, intolerances or health conditions, based on your individual genetic profile.

Using the highest quality scientific expertise and genetics insights, the tests will help you to be more informed about your own body, making it easier for you to take control of your own health and wellbeing.

For more information about My Health Checked’s full range of DNA health and wellness tests.

  1. NHS - Lactose Intolerance: https://www.nhs.uk/conditions/lactose-intolerance/
  2. National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases (NIDDK) - Lactose Intolerance: https://www.niddk.nih.gov/health-information/digestive-diseases/lactose-intolerance
  3. Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health - Caffeine: https://www.hsph.harvard.edu/nutritionsource/caffeine/
  4. NHS - Blood Pressure: https://www.nhs.uk/conditions/high-blood-pressure-hypertension/
  5. NHS - Vitamin and Mineral Supplements: https://www.nhs.uk/conditions/vitamins-and-minerals/
  6. Diabetes UK - Glucose: https://www.diabetes.org.uk/guide-to-diabetes/enjoy-food/eating-with-diabetes/diabetes-food-myths/myth-sugar-causes-diabetes