Genetic Testing Explained
On January 8th, 2011, The Sydney Morning Herald released an article entitled ‘Exploring the genetic jungle can be fraught with danger’, discussing the perils of genetic testing. Particularly online genetic testing.
“The growth in online DNA testing raises a host of serious legal, ethical and medical concerns…different companies offer clients a different range of insights into their unique genetic variants, including those that could increase risks for more than 170 diseases, responses to drugs or whether a serious inherited condition could be passed on to children” says the Herald’s science editor Deborah Smith.
She goes on to report that “the growing DNA testing industry has come under recent attack from politicians and medical experts as at best a waste of money and at worst unreliable and potentially harmful”.
Indeed, US investigators fuelled these concerns when they sent away the same DNA samples to four different online genetic testing companies (23andMe, Navigenics, deCODEme and Pathway Genomics) and got back different predictions of disease risks.
Associate professor and director of the Centre for Genetics Education at Royal North Shore Hospital, Kristine Barlow-Stewart was not surprised by the results of this sting operation. She acknowledged that “the science behind many of the results is still in it’s infancy” and that “interpretations should be taken with a very large grain of salt”.
Dr. Craig Ventor, genome pioneer, also found discrepancies in testing results in his 2009 study. He commented that this is because companies use different disease markers and use different mathematical algorithms to calculate risks.
Emed’s Online Genetic Test bypasses these issues by only looking at genetic variants with the following three criteria:
1. Emed only tests well studied and well documented genes that we know to impact our biochemical and physiological processes related to healthy living and healthy ageing. In this way we are moving away from the complications around testing for “disease” genes. Emed aims to proactively improve a person’s health rather than alarming them with possible disease risk.
2. Emed only looks at genes that a substantial proportion of the population have the variant/polymorphism for. In other words, we are more likely to find a genetic variant – rather than spending lots of time and money looking for an unlikely needle in a haystack, we are looking for ‘horses not zebras’.
3. Emed only tests genes where there are documented intervention (diet, lifestyle, supplementary measures) available to ameliorate deficiencies. In other words, if you do have a genetic variant, you can do something about it and compensate for it’s influence. This completely removes the fear factor and uncertainty that Professor Barlow-Stewart and others are worried about.
By only testing genes with the above criteria, Emed provides scientifically accurate advice to mitigate any predispositions towards risk and proactively maximises an individual’s potential of health.
There is a difference we must understand between general genetic testing and genetic testing involving ‘Nutrigenomics’ and ‘Epigenetics’.
Nutrigenomics studies the interaction between our genes, diet and lifestyle choices and gives us the ability to compensate for the influence of our genetic profile.
Epigenetics is the study of all factors that affect our gene functioning without changing their structure.
Many of the intimidating issues debated around genetic testing do not apply to the world of Nutrigenomics.
There is no problem of social stigma or worry about insurance discrimination because any gene variant you may have is going to be common in the population, well studied and provide ways for you to compensate for the influence of that particular gene variant.
If anything, employers and loved ones should be stoked that you are making calculated, proactive strides towards living a healthier life.
Emed uses a multi-disciplinary approach incorporating genetic factors, nutrition and detoxification, behavioural and lifestyle choices, and exercise and movement.
Your genetic profile leads you to make informed decisions and by studying how your genes interact with your lifestyle we can tailor a treatment plan designed specifically for you.
Sydney entrepreneur Romain Bonjean is the CEO of genetic company Lumigenix. He observes that “The Federal Government has a strong focus on preventative health, and the medical community is also starting to embrace integrative medicine. We believe that genomics is an important area that compliments this approach, with the aim of assisting in the delivery of best-practice healthcare”.
The best part of Emed’s Genetic Test is that not only do you receive a 40+ page manual to guide you through your genetic findings, you also receive a personalised comprehensive report prepared by a qualified health care professional explaining exactly what your pro-active health program involves.
The ongoing support from Emed is critical to understanding your gene-environment interactions and achieving your health goals.
This is another difference between Emed and other online genetic testing facilities – appropriate consultation from a DNA educated health care professional.
Ron Trent, chairman of the National Health and Medical Research Council's Human Genetic Advisory Committee, said genetic testing absolutely required appropriate counselling.
“A genetic test involves sitting down with a health professional who can tell you what the results mean for you and your family.” Although Professor Trent was inherently talking about tests that predict disease risk, the notion still applies.
He said it was appropriate that Australia introduced a ban last July on direct-to-consumer genetic testing, where results are not returned through a medical practitioner. “Just because you can have it done overseas doesn't mean it is correct,” Professor Trent said.
It is important you have someone to explain to you what your results mean, and their practical application. How does this affect me? What can I do about this? How can I use my genetic profile to lead a fuller, happier and healthier life?
What else can I do?
Address any questions you may have over genetic testing:
I don’t want to know what my genes say – what if they tell me something bad?
Emed doesn’t test for genes that predict your risk of developing a ‘disease’. Emed tells you about your genes that influence areas of health like inflammation, detoxification, cardiovascular health, fat metabolism etc.
This means you can work out what underlying process is likely to be contributing to your current symptoms and do something about it!
If you have “bad” gene variants (we call them ‘least beneficial’) we can work out what to do to compensate for their influence.
Which genes should I get tested and how do I know the interpretation of the testing is accurate?
Emed’s criteria for gene testing is mentioned earlier. To give you the best shot at good health we only pick genes to test that 1. we know exactly what they do and how, 2. that much of the population has variants for and 3. that if you do have the variant, you can do something about it.
By only looking at genes that have an abundance of scientific data and studies behind them, you can be assured that your results are precise, accurate and relevant.
Fair enough, but does any of this actually work – do people get good results being on a “gene smart” health program?
Yes. In a 2007 study, Arkadianos and others investigated whether genetic information could be used to tailor a diet and exercise program that would help individuals towards sustainable weight loss.
Patients with a history of failures at weight loss were offered a nutrigenetic test screening 24 variants in 19 genes involved in metabolism and compared to a second group of matched patients that did not receive a nutrigenetic test, but were otherwise treated according to standard clinic protocol. After 300 days follow up, they found 73% of individuals in the nutrigenetics group had maintained weight loss whereas only 32% of the control group had.
Another 2009 retrospective clinical study by Interleukin Genetics, Inc. found that the average weight loss and reduction in waistline was significantly greater for those that followed a genotype appropriate diet.
Research has also shown that people change, not because they want to live longer but because they want to live better and that 80% of all attempts to improve lifestyle without strategic support and follow up end in failure – Genetic testing is strategic, accurate and motivating and the staff at Emed are involved, supportive and encouraging.
I don’t know if I want people to have my personal genetic information – who will see it? What if it affects my life insurance or people think of me or treat me differently?
First of all, the only person who sees your genetic information is your Emed practitioner and you. When the samples are sent to FitGenes and their lab to be tested, you are just a number to them (i.e. 3326), and immediately after your DNA is tested it is destroyed. Your privacy is a priority to us. No other party will see your results unless you wish them to.
Your genetic information is an empowering thing to have – it is exciting to know exactly ‘who am I and what do I need to do to be the best version of myself’.
Emed provides the Best Natural Medicines, Health Products and Practitioner Strength Supplements, diet and lifestyle advice MATCHED to Your DNA.
There is a current health crisis that most of us are aware of:
- Although life expectancy is increasing (the black plague just doesn’t have the same sting it used to), health expectancy is decreasing.
- There is an obvious obesity epidemic with recent Australian Government data showing 68% of men (over 7.3 million) and 55% of women (over 6 million) are overweight or obese.
- Ageing population (Baby Boomers) mean that by 2020 approximately 20% of Australians will be over 65 years old.
The good news is that it is estimated that 75% of health and life expectancy after the age of 40 is modifiable. You CAN change your health destination!
By identifying your own nutrigenomics you can target disease prevention, improve daily efficiency and achieve optimal health.
Other tests that may be of benefit in conjunction with the genetic test include:
- Emed's Optimal Nutrition Evaluation (ONE) Test – the ONE test measures three categories of nutritional status; Metabolic Analysis Profile, Amino Acid Analysis, and Oxidative Stress Analysis. The ONE Test will provide you with a comprehensive view of yourcurrent vitamin and supplement needs with just a single urine sample.
- Emed Hair Mineral Analysis – Hair mineral analysis (HMA) is a safe, non-invasive test thatmeasures the levels and comparative ratios of nutrients and toxicmetals found in hair.
- Emed IgG Food Allergy Test – Emed tests for adverse reactions to different foods that can be a source of considerable discomfort in many chronic conditions and diseases.
- Emed Baseline Hormone Profile – provides valuable information on anindividual's hormonal status and the potential impact this may have onphysical and emotional health.