23andMe and You: Sharing My Genetic Report…Because I Can!

Well, the acne/skin problems have once again spiraled out of control since my update last week. I’m waiting for the results of the blood test I took last Monday to find out the level of testosterone in my body, but I’m starting to despair about the efficacy of my current functional medicine approach.

I’m essentially emptying my bank account only to have my skin become more destroyed. I ended up at the urgent care clinic again last week because my (warning: TMI alert) wonderful skin infection returned for the third time since starting this whole functional medicine thing. And, of course, the only answer they offered was my favorite*: antibiotics.

I’ve been on Clindamycin twice already, and while it cleared up the acne and the infection within one or two days both times, the doc was hesitant to give me another prescription—since overuse of antibiotics is most likely going to breed resistant super-bugs in my already messed up gut. Huzzah.

That being said, until I can talk to my functional medicine doc about the properly supplementing for my CBS mutation (and if you have no idea what that means, see last Monday’s post), and especially since I’m one month away from another ankle surgery, I’m taking the darned antibiotics.

Oh yeah, did I mention I’m having ankle surgery again? Ever since getting hit by a car at the end of May and breaking my left leg, my poor right leg has had to work overtime to compensate for the healing process. My leg has been swelling and losing strength and flexibility since then, and my podiatrist decided that, just for kicks, we should take one last look at it via MRI.

Diagnosis? Torn tendon. Again/still. So….surgery in January.

So, since I can’t give you guys any breakthrough good news on my health, I figured I’d bring you some of the highlights from my 23andMe: **

dna
[source]

Traits

High Confidence

Lactose Intolerance: Likely Intolerant

Not a surprise. I’ve been dairy-free since January of 2011, which was about 7 months before I went vegan. If I so much as look at milk sideways, I get a stomachache and/or break out in hormonal acne all over my jaw. Not worth it.

Smoking Behavior: If a Smoker, Likely to Smoke More

Good thing I wouldn’t touch a cigarette with a ten-foot pole.

Muscle Performance: Likely Sprinter

I find this one really interesting. In high school, I was the captain of and 2nd fastest runner on my cross country team…but, that being said, I did well because I trained twice a day and had a competitive streak like no other. Steady state cardio does nothing for me, but I can train 3X a week doing high intensity intervals or sprints, and my body adapts very quickly.

Average confidence – based on limited or preliminary research (so take it with a grain of pink Himalayan salt!) 

Caffeine Consumption

This one’s got two different alleles associated with it. According to one, I have a likelihood of average caffeine consumption, and according to the other, I have a likelihood of less than average consumption. Makes sense, because I was able to give up coffee cold turkey in 2012 without any adverse side effects, and I only ever felt like I needed coffee to function when I was working overtime during the holiday season/during product launches while in retail.

Food Preference: No call/typical daily sugar consumption 

This one’s weird. Based on preliminary research from a couple of studies, these genes look at a person’s likelihood of consuming more sugar. Looks like I’m in the group not likely to consume a lot of sugar. About that…

HDL (“Good”) Cholesterol Levels: Typical or slightly higher on average

LDL (“Bad”) Cholesterol Levels: Typical levels on average

Measures of Obesity: Typical BMI

Menopause:Typical Odds of Early Menopause

Sadly, I’m already there, unless I can get my hormones fixed. Hooray for amenorrhea.***

Response to Diet

This one was full of surprises:

    • A diet high in monounsaturated fat is not likely to have beneficial effects on BMI or waist circumference.
    • Increased odds of obesity on a high saturated fat diet. No increase in odds of obesity on a low saturated fat diet.
    • A high fat diet (30% of calories from fat) is associated with higher BMI.

Whoa. While it’s true that I’ve definitely filled out since I’ve started eating a higher fat diet, this says nothing about all of the beneficial things that a higher fat diet has done for me, such as providing my body with cholesterol to (hopefully) start making my sex hormones again, as well as provide the building blocks for the neurotransmitters that keep me from needing medication for depression, anxiety, or obsessive-compulsive behavior.

And, again, this is a report based on preliminary research and a limited number of studies, so I’m anxious to see what happens when there are more studies done in this area. (For example, when the saturated fat and obesity genotype correlation is based on a single study of 3,500 Europeans, and there is no mention of whether they controlled for carbohydrate or overall food consumption from what I can see on my 23andMe report, so there’s no need to jump to conclusions yet…)

Response to Exercise

This one could technically pry open another can of worms:

    • Typical BMI on average. Exercise is associated with a typical reduction in BMI of about 1.3 units (about 8 lbs in a person 5’7″ tall).
    • Little or no change in glucose tolerance with regular exercise.
    • Exercise is associated with a 5% improvement in insulin sensitivity, on average.
    • Decreasing calorie intake and increasing physical activity through walking is associated with weight loss.

While this one’s also based on a limited number of studies and preliminary research, it should just underline the fact that (and please, tell me how I can better emphasize this so we’ll all stop buying one-size-fits-all exercise plans and expecting the same results) our bodies will react differently to exercise. Epigenetics are important—but they’re based on genetics.

Eating Behavior: Lower tendency to overeat

Ha.

sugar-and-spice-gene-cartoon
[source]

Inherited Conditions: 

Gaucher Disease: Variant Present

I actually knew about this one before the 23andMe test. It’s a genetic disease that tends to show up in Eastern European Jewish populations. Both the mother and the father have to be carriers of the gene in order for the child to be born with this autosomal recessive disease. It’s an ugly, ugly disease, and most children born with it die before the age of five. My Oma (Dutch for grandmother) had Gaucher and lived, however, and my father and I are carriers.

Familial Mediterranean Fever: Variant Present

I’d never heard of this one before, but apparently it’s another ugly recessive disease, this time mostly from people descended from the fertile crescent (Turkish, Arab, Jewish). It’s an autoimmune disease that can cause everything from fevers and swollen joints to infertility and kidney damage. Good to know.

Health Risks

High Confidence

Type 2 Diabetes: 1.31X more likely than the average

Psoriasis 1.99X more likely than the average

Venous Thromboembolism: 1.47 X more likely than the average

Colorectal Cancer: 1.45X more likely 

Restless Legs Syndrome: 1.24X more likely than average

Parkinson’s Disease: 2.48X more likely

Chronic Kidney Disease: 1.23X more likely 

Type 1 Diabetes: 1.24

Average Confidence/Preliminary Research

Polycystic Ovary Syndrome: Moderately higher odds of developing PCOS.

Good to know, since I have PCOS…

Alcohol Dependence: Typical odds of alcohol dependence

This one was also interesting to know, since eating disorders are a kind of addiction. Yet one more good reason why I rarely, if ever drink.

Hypothyroidism: Typical to slightly higher odds of developing

Again, this one is based on preliminary research, but it’s good to know. I do have an imbalance in my T3/Reverse T3 currently, and I definitely need some thyroid support at this point…but I’m hoping it’s not permanent and will be reversed once I can get my sex hormones figured out.

Hashimoto’s Thyroiditis: Moderately increased risk

My decreased risks include Alzheimer’s, melanoma, MS, Crohn’s, Lupus, Celiac, and Stomach cancer.

Ancestry Composition

family-tree

[source]

Turns out my ancestry composition isn’t all that exciting or surprising:

  • 99.7% European
  • 0.0% Middle Eastern & North African
  • 0.0% Sub-Saharan African
  • 0.0% South Asian
  • 0.0% East Asian & Native American
  • 0.0% Oceanian
  • 0.3% Unassigned

I’m also 92.8% Ashkenazi Jewish, which is also no surprise, since my mom has already traced part of my ancestry back to a Jewish diaspora from Florence to Holland in the early-to-middle ages…

Although it IS interesting to note that 3.2% of my DNA is from Neanderthals, which puts me in the 99th percentile compared to the typical European 23andMe user. (The average is 2.7%)

My maternal line can be traced back to a single mutation in a family of mitochondrial DNA called a “haplogroup.” My haplogroup is K. Per 23andMe:

“Haplogroup: K, a subgroup of R

Age: 35,000 years

Region: Near East, Europe, Central Asia, Northern Africa

Example Populations: Ashkenazi, Druze, Kurds

Highlight: One branch of haplogroup K ties about 1.7 million Ashkenazi Jews living today to a single maternal ancestor.

Haplogroup K was involved in the introduction of Judaism to central and eastern Europe.”

My branch of the K haplogroup is K2a2a, which is specific to the Ashkenazi Jews—which is no surprise, given my ancestry composition. What’s really interesting about this info is that, according to the 23andMe report, “40% of the Ashkenazi living today – about 3.4 million people – could descend from as few as four women who lived within the last 2,000 years.”

And that’s all just skimming the surface. I could spend hours and hours diving deeper into the research behind all of this information, but I think it’s just interesting to share a little bit of the insight that this incredibly useful service reports.

I hate that 23andMe is being hamstrung by the FDA and not allowing new users access to their health information (see footnote ** below), but, that being said, at least 23andMe exists and is going to continue combing through the best genetic research available in order to one day make it possible for us to really have more than just a preliminary insight into our own genomes.

I hope you’ve enjoyed this rather close up look at my genes…and I’ll hopefully be able to bring you a positive health update very soon!

UPDATE! While I was in the middle of writing this post (literally), I received an email from a woman through the 23andMe messaging feature. She showed up as one of my potentially related 2nd-4th cousins and reached out to see how we were related. I didn’t have much information for her, but she named one of my actual cousins as one of her cousins. My dad has since confirmed that she’s connected to someone else in our family. Within 20 minutes of our initial correspondence, I had a new branch on my family tree. So even if we can’t get our health info, I believe that 23andMe is an incredible tool for learning about yourself, your family, and the world at large.

Anyone else out there have a similar experience with 23andMe?

Stay hungry,

@MissSkinnyGenes

*Sarcasm

**Just a quick aside re: the 23andMe vs. the FDA drama: per a recent update from 23andMe, they’re going to comply with the FDA’s regulations and continue to offer the tests to new customers—however they will no longer give detailed health reports. If you purchased a 23andMe before November 22 (like I did), then you get to keep your health reports. For now,23andMe will continue to provide information related to ancestry while working on improving the confidence of its health results.

***Again, sarcasm.

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One thought on “23andMe and You: Sharing My Genetic Report…Because I Can!

  1. I received my 23andme about the same time you did. It has been incredibly enlightening!! My son, brother and I all took it. It unearthed some much needed info on our methylation panel and I understand now why we all became so depleted in B-12.

    On the ancestry note, it had us pretty much where we thought we came from, but it was really precise. Our maternal line goes back to an area in the North Sea which is now underwater and matches DNA found there. How do they even know that?

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