I first started digging into personal genetic decoding over a half-dozen years ago. Back then you could run your DNA data through basic report generators that marked genetic mutations of interest. To understand those genes you had to research each one individually. It was a lot of fiddly work and lots of reading.
These days there are sites that generate detailed personal DNA reports for you. If I was still coding software I probably would have been really into creating automation like you find on these sites, but these days I prefer to just be a user. Today I’m going to discuss one such site, a site I paid to access, and yet so far, as a user, I approve of what they provide. The site is selfDecode.
If you want a quick glimpse of what the old days of on-line genetic research was like, you can access selfDecode’s “Legacy” reports from their top menu. Those look at genetic data much the same way I used to examine it years ago. These older reports show the kind of specialized knowledge you needed to know to work through your genes. Back then the main focus of online DNA research came through more holistic doctors concerning what’s known as the “methylation pathways” and the MTHFR genes. The reports also often focused on the COMT and MAOA neurotransmitter enzyme genes. The closest to something the average person might instantly understand might be Vitamin D absorption and coffee metabolization. Those were easy, but things got very convoluted and confusing beyond the above limited topics. You really needed to become an expert.
SelfDecode’s newer reports simplify thinking about genetic data. Instead of approaching your data through individual gene mutations and research projects like the old reports, the new reports are geared toward the average person. For example, are you more or less prone to “Brain Fog”, “Anxiety”, “Migraines”, “Tinnitus”? What personality traits are you more or less prone toward having? How about “Acid Reflux”, “High Blood Pressure”, “Food Allergies”? Things of that sort. There are over 112 reports available at the time I’m writing this, and they have been adding new reports regularly.
Keep in mind these reports do not make a diagnosis. Instead they estimate how prone your DNA makes you toward having certain characteristics. These estimates are based on scientific research studies. Think of them as flagging what to keep an eye on, or as a way of understanding why you might have a doctor provided diagnosis, or as just a way to better understand your tendencies in general.
For example, I have had issues with gout for decades. Doctors would tell me to stop eating organ meats, stop drinking all that wine, and would laugh because it’s known as the disease of kings. Apparently my last name is considered of royal blood in Eastern Europe, so who knows, maybe their attempt at humor is accurate due to some long dead relative. Where’s my castle? Anyway, turns out my gout report is a RED report. My blood work also typically shows high triglycerides, and lo and behold, that turned out to also be a RED report. My wife’s family has high cholesterol, and she got a RED cholesterol report. Someone else I know received a RED report on “Attention” and they indeed already had an ADHD diagnosis. So, in general, the reports do appear to match our lab reports.
One thing I find very useful is the way they color code reports. GREEN reports label where genes appear to be working at what would be considered the most optimal level. RED reports are the ones you probably need to watch out for the most. ORANGE reports are considered in the average range, though even in this group many of the reports are given a range from lower to higher probability.
When you examine each report they offer a full description and also usually include a list of things you can do to address the issue if needed. The site includes lifestyle tracker questionnaires that try to help you determine if your lifestyle and genetics are working well together, a list of regimens you can build and track, and the ability to enter lab tests. The site includes some up-selling options, like ordering blood tests and personalized vitamins, but those options are on their own sections of the site and to do get pushed or get in the way of exploring your data.
The next question might be, but how useful is knowing these traits are genetic, particularly if we’ve already been diagnosed? I feel it can be very practical. First off, by knowing some traits are genetic it actually lets us know where we need to either attempt significant extra work (like diet or exercise) to counter our genes, or that we might want need to just give in and take medications if the average treatments are not working. Both my wife and I might have given in to taking meds earlier had we known genetics was at fault, not lifestyle choices. Prior to getting our reports done my wife had finally given in to taking a statin, and I had given in to taking a uric acid lowering drug for gout. These genes likely explain why the diets that other people claimed worked for them didn’t work for us. Yes, I tried cherry juice for gout, and reducing fructose, and no that wasn’t enough. Apparently I’m special in this regard.
Other than health related issues, I also found the personality traits fascinating. They cover the five big personality traits: extraversion, agreeableness, openness, conscientiousness, and neuroticism. They also have a number of other personality reports including: aggression, impulsivity, irritability, risk taking, etc.. My wife and I shared our personality profiles with each other and suddenly we had a better understanding of ourselves and each other and where we do and don’t align and why. It was interesting how some past interactions suddenly made so much more sense, but that’s a whole new discussion for another time.
So, if you’ve been interested in decoding your genetics, I found selfDecode to be a very user friendly way to expand your understanding of yourself.