DNA Testing: Is it Worth It or Too Inconsistent?

DNA testing is the new trend and everyone seems to peeking into what their DNA results uncover.

Obviously, I am a proponent of genetic testing – when used correctly.

When DNA testing is done improperly, people are finding inconsistencies. This leads to frustration, doubt, FDA crackdowns and a threat to future DNA testing.

After months of reading all the negative talk about 23andMe and other genetic testing companies, today is the day I had enough.

Let’s get started.

We must first define where people are finding inconsistencies in their DNA testing.

Is it in the testing itself or in the interpretation of the findings?

From what I have seen, the testing itself appears to be solid. The issues are in the interpretation.

DNA testing companies are trying to provide a service to the public. While this is a noble – and intelligent business move in terms of gaining revenue – it is also fraught with FDA regulatory issues and blatant inconsistencies in the interpretations.

23andMe has been all over the news recently due to the FDA cracking down on how 23andMe displays the individual’s genetic findings in what they call ‘Health Traits.’  Below, you see what 23andMe found in this person’s DNA test results – or I should accurately state: Below is what 23andMe interpreted based on the customer’s DNA test results:

23andMe Health Traits

Where did 23andMe obtain this information? How do they know for sure that this person’s prostate cancer risk is 13.7% and below average risk?

Research.

For the sake of ease, let’s continue digging into prostate cancer as an example.

There are many causes for prostate cancer

  • environmental
  • lifestyle
  • genetic
  • dietary

What does 23andMe provide – or any other DNA testing lab company?

A glimpse into an individual’s genetic code. They do not do full sequencing of the human genome – and even if they did, there would still be discrepancies in the interpretation thereby rendering it worthless to the average person.

When evaluating risk for a certain condition, one must evaluate all causes and not just genetics.

Genetic companies attempt to inform their customers with health traits and disease risks in a nicely presented fashion because that is what sells – people want easy. It is easy to look at a table such as the one above and think, “I have a decreased risk of prostate cancer. That’s cool.”

The issue is the research on genetic causes of disease are massively conflicting and this is why genetic testing companies vary in their interpretations of your data.

One research company may look at a certain set of genes for a given condition and another research company reviews another set of genes. Obviously, the genetic findings in this case will vary.

Let’s play devil’s advocate.

Let’s say all research companies evaluate the same set of genes for one specific condition yet their interpretations still vary.

Why would that happen!?

A couple big reasons.

  1. No genetic company is evaluating your lifestyle, dietary intake, environmental exposures, in utero exposures, in utero nutrition, full details on the first few years of your life (which are the most susceptible to establishing your immune and neurological system). That said, how can any genetic lab testing company firmly establish overall risk to a specific disease or health condition? They cannot.
  2. Research looks at a certain limited number of variables because they have to restrict the variables in order to analyze them. The limitation of variables in of itself a hindrance to accurate findings. Research may be looking at a few genes in order to determine a genetic predisposition, but that is not how the body works. It requires, most commonly, a number of genetic polymorphisms along with diet, lifestyle and environmental exposures in order for an individual to begin expressing a disease state. Of course, there are some genetic polymorphisms which are quite significant, such as MTHFR C677T, but even this may be bypassed through a healthy lifestyle, diet and environment.

What did 23andMe look at in order to determine this person had a decreased risk of prostate cancer? They looked at this:

Gene or region: 8q24 (region 1)
SNP: rs1447295

That’s it.

They looked at one specific area of one gene.

They did not look at the person’s:

  • possible inability to eliminate cadmium – which is a risk for prostate cancer.
  • ability to reduce free radical damage or inflammation – both of which are risks for prostate cancers.
  • dietary intake – which is a risk for prostate cancer especially if they eat grilled meats.
  • nutritional profile – which is a risk for prostate cancer especially if deficient in zinc or selenium.

So what to do? What to believe?

Understand what you are getting when you order a DNA testing kit.

You are getting a glimpse of your DNA – not all of it – not even close – just a snapshot.

In order to find gold in your DNA test results, you have to dig for it in what they call your ‘raw data’

23andmeraw

 

You can browse the 23andMe raw data for a specific gene or for a specific SNP to see what you have. The issue is then you have to translate that to understand if you have the wild type (normal) or risk allele. Then, you have to understand what this gene actually does, how it is affected by the environment, medications, lifestyle habits, nutrients and your dietary intake to name a few.

To compound the problem, then you have to understand how this particular gene or SNP interacts with naturally occurring hormones, neurotransmitters and other genes.

Standard medicine looks at us from a very segmented approach which is hugely ineffective.

When you have heart troubles, you see a cardiologist.

When you have skin troubles, you see a dermatologist.

When you have digestive issues, you see a gastroenterologist.

Obviously, well, it should be, this form of medicine is ineffective as our cells communicate with each other from all areas of our body. We are not compartmentalized.  Be nice if we were – and once again – this is a business decision and a way to standardize medicine. It is not in your best interest.

There is some good news.

You now realize what I spend many hours a day on – analyzing all these interactions – between genes, nutrients, hormones, environmental toxins, dietary intake, lifestyles and so on. I integrate them and then present my findings to physicians worldwide.

These physicians then more accurately understand how to integrate your genetic test results with your complete history

Bottom line question: Is DNA testing worth it?

Absolutely – when analyzed properly.

What do I recommend for DNA testing now that 23andMe no longer has their Health Traits available?

23andMe

I find the Health Traits to be misleading anyhow – as does the FDA. By now, you should understand why I feel this way. I hope you feel the same.

Once you get your 23andMe test results back, what you want to do is go right to your raw data and export it into a program like MTHFR Support has.

While the MTHFR Support Report is still Greek to many, it does provide some key genes and their associated SNPs which you then can further read about and analyze with your doctor – who, hopefully, has some training in this area of medicine.

More and more doctors are receiving training in this area and as they do, I will be posting them here on MTHFR.Net and on SeekingHealth.org

I sincerely hope that this has clarified the inconsistent findings of DNA testing – and at the same time, does not prevent you from evaluating your DNA results with your doctor. When your DNA test results are analyzed along with your complete history, lifestyle, diet, environmental exposures and labs, amazing things may happen.

May those amazing things happen to you and your loved ones.

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16 Responses to “DNA Testing: Is it Worth It or Too Inconsistent?”

  1. Gary January 1, 2014 at 1:43 am # Reply

    Like you’ve said before, it’s not all in the genes, or genetic expression. I suppose some people might get that idea though when MTHFR, just as one example, tends to be overhyped.

    Thanks for the clarification. Hopefully others will see this article…

    And Happy New Year!

  2. Angie Croix January 2, 2014 at 8:06 pm # Reply

    Thank You Dr Lynch,

    Although ALL that you say here IS “Common Sense”, sadly MOST folks when it comes to Money or Their Health, don’t SEEM to have that and there isn’t a DNA SNP for that as far as I know yet ~ LOL

    I was doing just FINE reading the 23andME interpretations, taking MY Epigenteics into account, but I guess MOST people, unlike MOST of your followers, are sadly not even aware of what Epigenetics IS yet.. hence the dimwits thinking one ingredient in a recipe IS the ONLY Ingredient needed for the “End Result” or product….

    Thank YOU for working with others like Dr Jess Armine and Jackson, etc that are helping us to delve deeper.

    It’s really SAD that the CDC, NIH, & FDA are truly NOT serving the Best Interests of the Doctor’s OR the Public in general, but either baby-sitting dimwits or selling their souls to Big Pharma.

    Thank GOD or the deity of your choice, for The RESEARCHERS with INTEGRITY !!!

    Thank YOU for all you have and Continue to do…
    You are already Helping MILLIONS….
    and sadly our MDs are over worked and can’t even “Keep UP”
    with the Current Info so we must BEG them to Learn
    these “New Cutting Edge” things
    since just going to your average HMO,
    will get those with anything chronic
    absolutely NO Where, except taking Big Pharma Drugs
    that ALL have Many side effects
    instead of Treating (Let alone Fixing) the Cause….

    I do have one question for you tho….
    Since many of us can/could not attend your
    Conferences at Bastyr….
    Is there any way after the fact
    that you can either post videos
    or sell DVDs so interested people can still
    get educated.. ??

    You have already “Changed my Life in a Positive Way”
    but as usual with an overflowing glass
    many other things also need addressing
    to get us back down to that Beautiful Glass
    That is Half-FULL :)

    Bless you and ALL of the Researchers !!
    Please Have a “Most Excellent 2014″ ❤

    • Dr Lynch January 3, 2014 at 1:17 am # Reply

      Hi Angie –

      Thank you for your post ;)

      I will be posting the DVD announcement as soon as it is finished. Should be end of Jan.

  3. Dinah January 3, 2014 at 3:24 am # Reply

    Thank you for posting this well-balanced explanation about genetic testing and 23andMe. It answers the very question I wanted an answer to (about 23andMe). Now I have confidence in contacting them for testing. Much appreciate the work and publishing you are doing!

  4. Alina January 7, 2014 at 8:15 am # Reply

    Thank you Dr. Lynch,
    I have wondered myself about what DNA test results mean. Recently I have done a genetic test through SmartDNA. 100 genes were tested including the MTHFR which of course came back defective. C677T and A1298C. Also some other detox (CYP1B1, GSTT1, GSTP1) and mythylation (MTR, SLC19A1) genes came back defective. What do I do with the knowledge though as I do not have any diseases or symptoms. Do I take the supplements recommended by you anyway in the same dosages and all the time?

    Also from what I know, let’s say cancer genes, is that because you have the genes it does not mean that you will have the cancer. Does the other mutations (including MYHFR) work the same way?
    But on the other hand if you have genes for brown eyes then you have brown eyes. It is not a matter of environment, diet etc. So confusing! How do I know which genes mean that I have something and which ones are just a potential?
    Thank you

    • Susan February 17, 2014 at 3:21 am # Reply

      Alina, I believe that with the MTHFR and other Methylation gene defects, your body still has underlying issue’s however if your diet is balance in a way that bypasses these defects or corrects for them, you won’t have symptoms. Some of the studies have shown that people with some of the defects in Mediterranean areas don’t have the same symptoms and the thought is that the Mediterranean diet corrects for the problems the mutations lead to. It really shows how epigenetics play a role in disease expression. Methylation cycle is one area that it seems we can correct inbalances and improve our phenotype expression.

  5. James K. January 16, 2014 at 11:49 pm # Reply

    It’s worse for some conditions because 23andme is looking at SNPs that have not been associated with the condition. My buddy looked at bipolar depression and checked Promethease. 23andme looks at an SNP that has not been confirmed for the condition but is near other SNPs that are associated with bipolar. Promethease looked at 100 SNPs but some were general mental illness.

  6. Dr. S. Maddox, D.O. March 1, 2014 at 8:47 pm # Reply

    Dr. Lynch,
    Previously you have stated to a user that you, “question the validity of 23andme testing”. You went on to state the inaccuracy of 23anddme and questioned their methods. You further stated that you found “it hard to believe that saliva can produce enough DNA to test for so many SNP’s”. Please explain your dramatic change of heart on this issue and disclose any financial ties you have to 23andme. Thank you.

    • Dr Lynch March 3, 2014 at 8:37 am # Reply

      Found your question.

      I had not approved it yet. This site would get tons of spam if I automatically approved every post.

      In short – technology has come a long way in 2 years in terms of genomics. Also – I compared their lab results with other genomic tests and they were in alignment.

  7. Dr. S. Maddox, D.O. March 2, 2014 at 3:40 am # Reply

    Dr. Lynch,
    Why did you delete my question? Please explain why you have completely changed your stance on 23andme and please disclose your financial ties to 23andme. In the science and medical community it is standard practice to disclose financial ties to your research. You have an ethical and moral obligation to the people who place their trust in you and what you say. In 2012 you said:
    “I question the validity of 23andme testing. I find it hard to believe that saliva can produce enough DNA to test for so many SNP’s.”

    • Dr Lynch March 3, 2014 at 8:35 am # Reply

      Hello –

      I did not delete your question – not sure which you are discussing.

      Beliefs change.

      In 2012, I had one belief and now I have another in 2014.

      I have no ties to 23andMe.

      My work done here is due to passion. That passion is:
      To reduce incidence of disease of unborn children.

      My passion is also to change the way healthcare is practiced – from sickcare to optimizing health.

      My research and clinical experiences have demonstrated key methods and protocols which, if done properly, may restore the health quickly and efficiently in many patients.

      Of course, there is much work to be done.

  8. terri March 15, 2014 at 12:48 pm # Reply

    Thank you! I ordered 23 and me for SNPs info. I already know I’m compound heterozygous mthfr with normal plasma b12, folate, and homocysteine levels and very high b6 levels. Doctor appt is next month and in the meantime I’m googling trying to find info on high b6 in relation to mthfr but can’t. So, I’m trying to figure out what to do while I wait on my doctor till next month.

  9. Laurie March 27, 2014 at 9:54 pm # Reply

    Such an interesting article and right away what hit home with me was your insight that the “big picture” MUST be looked at, however, it rarely is. Exposures to what, and where, even? I’m just a curious layperson who began to research tick born infectious diseases because of my family and ancestral known exposure levels going back centuries, to Scotland, and Germany. After losing a friend who lived in Australia to MND who was told it “ran in the family” = a genetically passed death sentence, I began to wonder about what effect infectious disease can have in terms of centuries, upon genetics within family bloodlines? An underlying bacterial infectious disease that is never found in the course of one’s lifetime could very well set the stage for an “altered state” of health for all within that family? I’m of the mind these blood born infections could be passed from one generation to the next, why not? In the case of Australia, where this friend lived, and also California, for that matter where I live, the bacteria associated with tick bite is still denied as being problematic or widespread within the populace. It is an “Emerging” infectious disease. I’m a pauper, cannot afford Dr visits. It’s not in the cards, for me! What also caught my attention were posted symptoms of MTHFR that also cross over the those of Lyme Disease.
    I research in hopes of finding answers to things that puzzle me. And I like science. I’m fortunate enough to know my family tree health histories on both sides 2 generations back which really are more like clues, when all is laid out and analyzed. I look forward to reading more of your articles.
    Sincerely, Laurie

  10. Sissy August 31, 2014 at 3:55 pm # Reply

    Can you tell what is the difference between the testing you offer for $195 and the 23andme testing?

    • Dr Lynch September 3, 2014 at 7:31 pm # Reply

      Sissy –

      Spectracell and Molecular Testing Labs offer MTHFR testing – which I’ve linked here.

      23andMe offers 1000s of SNP testing for $99.

  11. Sissy September 3, 2014 at 8:16 pm # Reply

    So is there a difference between MTHFR testing and SNP testing?
    Thank you, so I don’t understand :(

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