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Pocketmags Digital Magazines

What can a health DNA test really tell you?

Home genetic testing kits claim to reveal the secret blueprint of your future health. But how accurate are they, and what are the downsides? Jo Waters investigates

DNA HEALTH SCREENING TESTS are booming: in the US around 25% of the population are believed to have taken a commercial genetic test. Now the saliva tests that are sent off to a laboratory for DNA analysis are taking off in the UK, too. You may even have had one for Christmas.

Who wouldn’t be intrigued to know more about their DNA? Rory Larkin, chef and HFG nutritionist, certainly was – enough to pay £149 to the website 23andme.com last year to have the test. He was a bit sceptical about what it could tell him, however.

‘Coming from 100% Irish stock, I wondered if I had some DNA from any other ethnic groups that I didn’t know about,’ says Rory. ‘But I’d also come across science podcasts about how genetic variants can affect your nutritional status, and I was curious about that, too.’

The makers of these tests have obviously tapped into our curiosity about our genetic predispositions, but was Rory gaining useful insights into his future health, or wasting his money on a gimmicky but medically meaningless test?

What they can test

DNA is an instruction manual ‘blueprint’ for making a life form – be it human, animal or plant. Humans share 99% of the same DNA code but it’s the 1% that varies between us that is responsible for our individuality. The booming health test market claims to give you a detailed breakdown of your individual genetic make-up – highlighting which diseases you might be genetically predisposed to.

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About Healthy Food Guide

Improve your gut health with our top 10 dietitian tips, plus gut-friendly recipes. Get the latest on low-carb diets for diabetes, and find out why your doctor could prescribe ditching the pills in favour of exercise. We celebrate Chinese New Year with super-quick veggie recipes and give you a taste of gut-calming low-FODMAP meals. And don’t miss the chance to win a foodie glamping weekend at Valley Fest!