23andMe Review

by Mars
23 and me

Our results are in and it’s time for us to share our 23andMe review. We moved to the countryside to de-stress and lead a healthier, more balanced life, so we were hoping that the 23andMe health test would flag up potential health risks that we could preempt.

When you access your data on the 23andMe app or website for the first time there is an incredible amount of information to process. Initially, the data comes across as being very informative and thorough, and you start to feel like you’re finding out a lot about yourself.

The longer you spend reading the detailed write ups, especially on the health and medical content, you start to realise that the picture is far from being complete.

Disease predisposition

As part of the test we purchased (Health + Ancestry) it provides a top line overview of illnesses and diseases that you may be genetically predisposed to. The thing is that for the bulk of the tests that they have conducted they are only checking for some markers.

For example, I came up clean in my BRCA1/BRCA2 test which identifies hereditary traits for male breast cancer and prostate cancer. Great. The thing is, 23andMe only tested for three genetic variants, but there are over 1,000 variants that are known to increase cancer risk, so it’s not an all clear result by any means.

This level of thoroughness applies to most of the illness and disease predisposition tests, and I came through ‘unscathed’, but it wasn’t hugely conclusive as far as I was concerned.

The wellness and physical traits were interesting, but not earth shattering or enlightening. Just good fun.

For example, my DNA indicated that I’m likely to detect the smell of asparagus and that my hair should be straight. These are correct, but about a quarter of the predictions and assumptions were incorrect. That’s OK because my DNA suggests I shouldn’t have a fear of heights but my acrophobia is debilitating and I already know that.

Ethnicity and ancestors

I did find the genetic make up section very interesting. It tells you your ethnicity composition with an ancestral journey connected to your ancestral DNA. It’s been extremely well researched and referenced.

In my case, my maternal haplogroup is H7a1 and based on this I’m a distant relative of Marie Antoinette. Very cool.

Based on your DNA you get detailed migration maps of your ancestors going back centuries which makes for some interesting reading.

Because 23andMe don’t have a huge network yet, I was connected to a handful of DNA relatives that shared 1-2% of my DNA (2nd-4th cousins) and a much longer lists of very distant DNA cousins that shared under 0.5% of my DNA.

Speed of results

The speed with which results were processed was excellent. We received results in three weeks from the time we submitted our saliva tests, which has been much faster than AncestryDNA.

Final verdict: 23andMe review

In my opinion, the genetic origins and ethnic composition are far more interesting than the health/medical results, and you can get the ethnicity test by itself for a lot cheaper without having to do the disease predisposition tests.

The ethnic composition is also covered by AncestryDNA and we are still waiting for those results so it will be very interesting to compare them and see how many similarities there are between these two kits. Because AncestryDNA is more established with more users, we’re expecting more DNA connections with them.

All in all, I don’t think the medical and illness predisposition reports were as good as I expected, and had we not got these kits at half price over the festive season, I don’t think they’re worth the full amount (£149).

Don’t get me wrong. I think the science and research is very well done, but the overall tests are not conclusive and may lull people that don’t read the reports thoroughly into a false sense of security. That said, it may still be life changing if you find out that you are genetically susceptible to a common variant of an illness.

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