DNA testing is a fast growing industry and breakthroughs in genetics occur on a daily basis. Even though carrying a “risk” gene does not necessarily mean that you will develop the disease associated with it, getting a DNA test can still be scary for many people.
Knowing the risks could help you prevent those diseases by allowing you to make the changes necessary to counter and eradicate those risks.
To know or not to know?
Many diseases are multifactorial, meaning that several factors influence the outcome. That is, in order for the disease to develop, you may need to have both environmental and genetic factors.
By environmental, I don’t mean your natural surroundings (although these are also part of your environment).
Instead, environmental factors include the products that you use in your daily life. Namely your toothpaste, deodorant, shampoo, shower gel, cleaning products, hand creams, makeup, nail polish, etc. Another environmental factor is whether you heat up your frozen dinner in a BPA plastic container, or cook it from scratch with fresh ingredients from your local farmer’s market.
As you might expect, a non-toxic environment is the best way to prevent diseases. This can be difficult in a city such as London since even your commute in the Tube exposes you to a year’s worth of toxins. Nowadays, however, it is very difficult to avoid toxins in a highly polluted world.
Nevertheless, you can be proactive and adopt non-toxic products for your home. Using organic cleaning products and eating organic food are some of the things you can do to detoxify your surroundings. Integrate this, as well as a regular exercise into your life for better results.
What Will a DNA Test Tell You?
Currently, many DNA tests will be able to tell you your disease predisposition and how you might respond to medicines, exercise, and food.
However, can these DNA results actually make a difference for people?
Knowing Your Risk Of Disease – Does It Make a Difference?
The Human Genome Project was able to complete the sequencing of the human genome. This was a remarkable accomplishment and a cause for celebration for many. Several companies including 23andMe, Navigenics, and deCODE have capitalised on that scientific achievement by offering genomic testing directly to the public. Today, this breakthrough has made bimolecular technology more accessible to consumers.
The only issue with this breakthrough was the lack of methodology, education, and follow-up associated with these tests. This has left many consumers in doubt and/or fear of their results, especially for those who have found they are at risk of developing certain diseases.
Can DNA Testing Help You Take the Necessary Step to Avoid Diseases?
One of the benefits of genomic testing is that, if people knew they were at risk of a disease, they can take preventive measures to reduce their risk. That seems plausible; However, in a recent study, a systematic review in the BMJ (formerly known as the British Medical Journal) found that relying on a DNA-based risk of disease estimates did not increase risk-reducing health behaviors.
The main reason for this was the lack of clarity regarding what needs to be done, as well as overwhelming amounts of information.
The Way Forward: Clearing the path to optimum health
Genomic testing is now giving us the ability to predict what foods are best for us, prescribe individualised exercise routines, and recommend a personalised list of supplements and prescription drugs that can maximize our health and avoid disease.
Are We There Yet?
DNA testing is a tool that experts should use to educate their patients on the steps that should be taken to optimise their health and avoid the expression of their "risk" genes.
Preventative education plays a large role in DNA testing, and this can empower people into adopting personalised solutions.
The constant development of technology and the increasing access to information makes this an even bigger reality.
A shift is currently happening towards something called citizen medicine.
With our smartphones in our hands, access to information is only a few clicks away. We are no longer hostages to a paternalistic system in which "doctors knows best”. Medicine has been revolutionized and digitized. Now, medicine’s one-size-fits-all model, which has constantly failed and cost billions to governments, is being transformed.
There is no doubt that there is still a lot to do; however, progress is ongoing. Although the medical establishment is resisting these changes, DNA testing, and personalised preventative actions are much more efficient in addressing diseases than the current model is in curing them. This is especially exciting since degenerative diseases, despite being preventable, amount to more than 90% of deaths in the world!
I certainly hope the medical system will shift before the first human lands on Mars. As history has shown, human priorities are not always in the right order. In other words, colonising new planets while we are still dying of preventable diseases isn’t progress.
The time is now to make the shift and you have a chance to be part of it!
If you would like to be part in this exciting movement and take the first steps towards more proactive and personalized health solutions, click here to book your complimentary consultation