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If the idea of discovering new blood relatives or the multiple ancestral groups you descended from doesn’t really excite you, you may still have a good reason to trace your family tree. That’s because the information can be eye-opening as far as your health is concerned. Today we will discuss DNA testing. 

Tracing your genetic roots has a practical benefit: you will have a clearer idea of your genetic predisposition toward a disease. An understanding around health risks will help you figure out what you can do to maintain wellness and be a part of your loved ones’ lives for a long time.

Direct-to-consumer DNA testing to determine your family history

Genetic testing has come to our doorstep. You place an order online at a DNA service, they send you a saliva collection kit, you provide a sample (your spit) and receive your online personalized genetic report.

Well-known genetic testing providers include 23andMe, Ancestry, MyHeritage and Family Tree DNA. Besides your “origin story”, most offer important insights into your health and wellness.

Breaking it down: The different reports you can expect

Your Ancestry

Genetic testing services do a deep dive into hundreds of populations to provide a multidimensional view of your ancestry – information about every region your ancestors came from, the history of each region, ancestors’ migration patterns, and so on.

You can see which users your DNA closely matches with, and send them a message. This individual may be someone you know, in which case you can compare one another’s ethnicity estimates.

It is possible that you may discover a relative or two among the many users of the service. Perhaps a maternal cousin or more controversially – a half-sibling, although the possibility of unearthing family secrets is minimal, and there is also a margin of error to consider (we’ll get to that later).

Your Health Traits

Perhaps the most compelling reason to pay for a DNA test – health and wellness data can move you to make judicious decisions. To be clear, health reports from genetic testing services suggest genetic links that may pose risks of certain diseases, and do not offer a diagnosis or qualify as medical advice.

23andMe, for instance, offers information on genetic variants associated with an increased risk of developing Parkinson’s Disease, Type 2 diabetes and other diseases you may want to manage proactively.

Ancestry.com categorizes health risks arising from genetic factors into “notable health results” that require your attention, and carrier status – whether you carry a genetic variant for a condition that you can pass onto your children. You even receive steps of action to pursue in consultation with your healthcare provider.

MyHeritage also offers a carrier status report for a number of diseases, including age-related macular degeneration, susceptibility to HIV-1 infection, sickle cell anemia and celiac disease. Although all this may sound bleak, it may be in your best interest to be aware of the potential health risks to you or a family member.

If you and your loved ones are already aware of any predisposition to a worrying disease, genetic testing may serve as further validation. However, be sure to confirm the results with your doctor. To verify a mutation in a gene that increases risk of acquiring a particular disease over your lifetime, genetic testing through a healthcare professional is essential.

Your doctor will recommend you to a genetic counselor who will have you do the test again through a hospital-approved lab. Upon confirmation from a qualified second source, you can proceed to take next steps in collaboration with your doctor.

Physical traits and wellness insights

DNA testing services consider hundreds of genetic markers associated with various physical traits, such as eye colors, freckles and weight, to cheek dimples, hair thickness, skin pigmentation and uni-brow. These tame and amusing findings on inherited traits and their striking variants do make interesting conversations.

There’s more – how attractive you are to mosquitoes plus the severity of reactions to insect bites, and how well you’re able to match a musical pitch, among others.

If you can’t stand cilantro or the sound of eating, you’ll know how your genetic makeup influences your tendencies.

Your DNA offers a wealth of lifestyle-related information, including lactose intolerance, alcohol flush reaction and caffeine consumption. While you may have these issues at the back of your mind, the gene connect can clarify why your body craves or reacts in certain ways.

How accurate are genetic testing services?

DNA testing services use genotyping, a method of identifying genetic differences in your DNA. They are neither 100% accurate nor complete, and they don’t claim to be. While genetic testing services help you understand health risks, only a few such as 23andMe, actually have FDA approval as a risk screener of genetic conditions and diseases.

However, all test kits require FDA approval prior to being distributed on the market. Carrier screening tests are exempt from FDA premarket review. To avoid the ethical, social, health and legal implications arising from genetic tests, some ancestry services refrain from doing DNA testing for health insights.

As an example, FamilyTreeDNA doesn’t provide health information, only DNA data that you can upload to websites like Genomelink and Promethease that link the data to genomic research to provide insights on fitness, personality, intelligence, nutrition, and predisposition to genetic diseases and disorders.

In conclusion

The ancestry, health and wellness components of direct-to-consumer genetic testing offer a convenient way to explore your family origins, promote awareness around genetic diseases, and encourage you to be more proactive about your health.

Health reports from DNA testing services hold clues into your health, but only healthcare professionals and appropriate medical examinations can authoritatively establish health risks. The important thing is to investigate findings and implement measures that safeguard your health and offer comfort to your loved ones.

At Quotacy, we understand the impact your life has on your family. Life insurance is essential to keep your family’s life in balance and save them from having to leave behind the future you’re helping them shape today.

If you plan on getting genetic testing done, we recommend that you buy life insurance first. Many life insurance companies have added a question to their applications asking if you have had any genetic testing done. If you have, they can request to see the results. Adverse health results may cause the cost of your life insurance policy to be higher.

See what you’d pay for life insurance with free quotes today.

About the writer

Headshot of Natasha Cornelius, a life insurance writer, for Quotacy, Inc.

Greg Lewerer

Director of Creative Strategy

Greg is Quotacy’s Director of Creative Strategy. He has an eclectic past from working on movie scripts to creating ad campaigns for major brands. His love of creative solutions drove him to strategy, and he now uses his powers to help families protect their loved ones. Outside of work, Greg spends his time off the grid hunting, fishing, camping, biking, hiking, and walking his dogs.