So I’m sure you’ve all heard about 23andMe. You’ve seen/heard the commercials that blitz the airwaves around Christmas, heard your co-workers talk about it, whatever. But maybe you haven’t ordered one for yourself yet. Or maybe you have, but didn’t know that you can take the raw 23andMe data and import it into another tool which will give you a thorough analysis of your DNA and your genetic predispositions.
If you are a parent, I can’t recommend this enough. Even if you’re not, don’t you want to have the information so you can take better care of yourself now and potentially avoid complications from diseases and ailments later if the information is available to you today?
Don’t get me wrong, it’s cool to get a report on your ancestry and get a general idea of what variants were detected that are associated with certain diseases and that’s what 23andMe provides. A great overview. But this additive tool called, Promethease, takes that overview and drills down to the core of you. The good and the bad. I’ll walk you through the process that I went through with both tools here and even show you some of the good and bad in my own reports.
Note: I am not getting paid for any of this, nor would I want to. Consider this a breakdown of my experience with both tools and you can do with it what you want. Hey, if I can do this, you absolutely can too. Here we go.
To start, I went to 23andMe.com and ordered the Health + Ancestry package. When it arrived, I just followed the simple instructions, provided a saliva sample, sent it back, and waited a couple weeks. Then all this happens:
If you read my About page, you already know that I’m mixed race (black//white).
50/50 then, right? Not exactly.
Good gawd, what a mutt. I fully expected to have Irish (I actually carry both the red head and blue eyes genes) in me along with some British from my white side, but the French/German & NW European was a bit surprising. Apparently I'm in the bloodline of King Louis XVI - yeah, the one that was beheaded for high treason in 1793. Hello.
You could have literally told me anything on the black side and I would have nodded and said, “yeah, that sounds about right” not having any idea if it was or not. But iso on the very last entry there, Broadly East Asian & Native American. Remember the Asian part of that, there’s an interesting gene that I’m carrying that is almost exclusively carried by Asian people that I’ll show you in a bit.
On your report, you can click on any of these regions and get some background on them if you want to dig deeper into your Ancestry Composition. The system will connect your DNA with relatives, there’s Neanderthal history, Maternal and Paternal Haplogroup information and a whole lot more to go through. That’s the Ancestry side, Health is where things get interesting.
Not gonna lie, I dry swallowed a bit when I clicked on the health report, really not knowing what to expect. I’m 47, have kept myself in reasonable shape over the years, but have definitely been known to yo-yo a bit as far as weight goes. My heart sank a bit when I looked at the Health Predisposition page and saw the first entry - Age-Related Macular Degeneration (Slightly increased risk). AMD is the most common cause of irreversible vision loss in older adults. The disease results in damage to the central part of the retina (the macula) impairing vision needed for reading, driving, and even recognizing faces.
Here’s the scary part of this one, I have already been tested for some photoreceptor damage in my right eye here in Portland which has given me a narrow “blind spot” to my right at about 50 degrees when looking straight ahead. My left eye has completely adapted to taking over most of the peripheral work for my right eye, but it can’t cover everything. So yeah, this is something that I have to pay attention to. Luckily, I’ve already had a head start on this one since it was discovered several years ago, but I feel better knowing that it’s genetic and there are supplement options that I can take to continue trying to stay ahead of it (Lutein + Zeaxanthin).
I had no other Variants detected across everything else. But don’t be alarmed if you do, the site is very clear that you are just carrying a gene that has a higher probability of these conditions, it doesn’t mean that you are absolutely destined for it. Consider this a preventative measure, get out in front of this stuff before it becomes a problem.
Check this out:
Yeah buddy. Solid contribution from the 46.2% black side of my ancestry. Ha!
The Health reports also have Traits that you are most likely to have based on your genetics: Ability to match musical pitch, Asparagus odor detection, whether you have a bald spot, freckles, or whether your ear lobe is attached or detached. There’s a lot to dig into, have fun with it.
Okay, you’ve played around with the results from your Ancestry + Heath package on 23andMe. This is where most people stop. Maybe they bring up a couple of their results at dinner parties, but never take it any further. I want to encourage you to go deeper.
There is a site called, Promethease that will break your genome down gene by gene. And it only costs $12. There is no reason not to do this.
Here’s what you do next:
1) Click on your name at the top right corner of your 23andMe page and select, “Browse Raw Data”
2) Click download and you will receive an email in a few minutes when your download is ready.
3) Click the link in the email to download your full genome in a .zip file
Once downloaded, head over to Promethease, agree to all of the check boxes and upload your raw data. Your report will take 5-10 minutes and you will again be emailed when your report is ready to be downloaded. You’ll get 45 days to review the report online or you can always click on the .html file that comes with your download to look at your report whenever you want.
One of the first entries I see in my report is what 23andMe already told me about my predisposition toward AMD. The screenshot above shows how all of the data is organized. I won’t go through all of that here, but each time you open the report, it walks you through a tutorial of everything if you want to take advantage of that.
Remember that Asian note that I made earlier when we were talking about my Ancestry Composition? Check this out. Apparently I’m carrying what this calls the best version of the SIRT1 longevity gene. It is thought that this is one of the genes that cause Asians to live longer than other races as it is commonly found in Asians but rare in all other races. It also looks to be linked with higher cognitive function in older individuals and is the target of anti-aging studies using supplements like resveratrol.
Am I going to start taking resveratrol just in case? Damn right. If the AMD catches me and turns me into a blind old man one day, at least I’ll still be sharp right?
So as I’m scrolling through my genome and reading each section carefully, I came across these two:
Both of these actually carry DECREASED risk of AMD. What?? So, does that mean that these two will cancel out the other two and I’m good? I have no idea, but it clearly warrants some further study.
Look, I’m obviously not a doctor. Just a curious clown that wants to understand my specific health profile as best I can. The technology has caught up to people like me/us who want to know this kind of information, so why not take advantage of it? My daughter has had some vision issues with her right eye, so guess what she’s taking every morning when she wakes up now? That’s right, Lutein + Zeaxanthin.
The point is, if you’re a parent, any information that you have about yourself is gold to your children who are just starting to learn about health and diet from you. My wife’s results just came in this morning so we’ll now be able to see all of our predispositions next to each other and help our kids make the right adjustments with supplements and diet to naturally decrease their chances of any complications in their adult years.
I hope this was helpful for you guys, connect with me here or on Twitter and let me know how your results turn out. You’ll feel bullet proof after you do this, believe me. Knowledge is power.