Thursday, August 22, 2013

Exploring my DNA with 23andMe (Genetic Testing for Health, Disease & Ancestry; DNA Test)

Disclosure: 23 and Me provided me with a genetic testing kit free of charge. All opinions are my own. 

Have you ever wondered where exactly your ancestors came from? Have you ever wondered if you have an inherited condition, one that could possibly put your children at risk? 

I recently had genetic testing through 23andMe. I'm fascinated by the secrets held in our genes, and I was more than curious to know what secrets my own genes held. 

The process was super easy: I ordered a test kit, which was shipped directly to my home. I registered my kit online. I provided a saliva sample and shipped it via FedEx for testing. In about four weeks, the results were all available online. 

23 and Me provides reports on 240+ health conditions and test results for 40+ inherited conditions. You can also discover your lineage, find relatives and more. You can find out if your body metabolizes caffeine quickly, or if you're at a higher risk for diabetes.   

My results are rather boring, which in the case of genetic testing, is a good thing. 

Of the 40+ inherited diseases (including the BRCA cancer mutation - selected), I only possess one or more genetic variants linked to one disease: Hemochromatosis. Though I am not personally affected by it, these variants could be inherited by my children. People with Hemochromatosis absorb too much iron. This was an odd finding because I have the opposite problem - I have always suffered from low iron levels, and it was a big issue during both of my pregnancies.  

Of the 240+ possible health risks, I am at average or decreased risk for all. Good news! 

There weren't many surprises in my ancestry, either. I am 99.9% European, and mostly Northern European (48.4% Northern European - Scandinavian and British, 8.5% Eastern European, 8.4% Southern European, 34.6% Non-specified European). This is on par with what I knew already about my ancestry, and though my mother's side of the family is mainly from Northern England, most of Northern England was settled long ago by Vikings (Indeed the cricket team that our family hails from - Yorkshire - has the Viking as a mascot). 

One of the more hilarious discoveries in this report, for me at least, is that it is now confirmed that an estimated 3% of my DNA is from Neanderthals. From what I've learned, this is a pretty high percentage. This must explain why I love campfires and exploring caves! Can I blame my Neanderthal ancestry on mistakes or poor choices I've made in life?

My great, great grandma x 100, back in the cave days.  
Evidently not. Neanderthals get a pretty bad rap, but did you know that Neanderthal cranial capacity is thought to have been as large as that of modern humans, perhaps even larger? This indicates that their brain size may have been comparable, or larger, than modern day humans. A 2008 study that created three-dimensional computer-assisted reconstructions of Neanderthal infants based on fossils found in Russia and Syria showed that Neanderthal and modern human brains were the same size at birth, but by adulthood, the Neanderthal brain was larger than the modern human brain. Neanderthals were also much stronger than modern humans, and had very strong arms and hands. 

Exploring my DNA with 23andMe was a fun and interesting opportunity. If you've ever wondered what secrets your own genes hold, I encourage you to give it a try! For more info, visit

1 comment:

  1. That is pretty cool. I've always wanted to do a test like that to learn more about my ancestry. And I'm curious to learn about health conditions I may be predisposed to.