Once confined to the halls of medical clinics and hospitals, online genealogical DNA tests – sometimes called ancestry DNA tests – are quickly shifting medical information out to the people they affect most: consumers.
No longer is it necessary to see a medical professional to buy DNA tests and find out your results.
Dozens of new online DNA testing services have come onto the market since the early 2000s, offering a convenient way to submit samples and receive results without leaving your house.
The result of this shift has been positive. There are several ways people can leverage DNA testing today to improve their understanding of their unique family and medical history.
In particular, there are five things that people can now do affordably and effectively using online DNA tests:
- Ancestry DNA testing
- Paternity DNA testing
- Genetic health screening
- DNA testing for dietary and fitness (updated for 2018)
- DNA testing kits for health and well-being (updated for 2018)
Family History and Creating A Family Tree
Ancestry DNA Testing
In most cases, a verbal or written family history supplied by close family members is not enough to build a reliable family tree. Ancestry DNA testing fills-in the gaps provided and discloses family genealogy several generations back.
Using an ancestry DNA test, it is possible to identify one’s racial background, past ancestors and even the approximate geographical location of those ancestors over time. Basically, ancestry DNA testing builds up a timeline into your genetic past, revealing familial, racial and geographical ties.
For example, a particular test may show that a person is related to someone else who lived several generations back. It may also show that one’s ancestry contains varying proportions of Asian, European, Latino and African ethnicities.
There are three types of genetic ancestry tests:
- Y chromosome testing
- Mitochondrial DNA testing
- Autosomal DNA testing
Autosomal DNA testing is the most commonly employed method by ancestry DNA test services. This is because it is the most effective in determining ethnic backgrounds and can be used to track family histories further back in time.
- Ancestry.com is for people who want to construct a family tree using a variety of information sources (DNA is just one) so they can understand their ancestors better – but aren’t completely concerned about accuracy.
- FamilyTreeDNA.com is better suited for people who actually want to connect with lost relatives and to know for sure if they are related.
Paternity DNA Testing
For several reasons, it may be necessary to determine the biological relationship between an individual and his or her alleged father. Paternity DNA testing helps to accurately determine whether an individual is a biological father.
Like ancestry DNA testing, paternity testing was not easily accessible to consumers until very recently. It was also costly.
But with the emergence of numerous DNA testing services operating online, the cost has come down and accessibility greatly improved.
Now, all you need to do is send a test sample and receive test results without having to travel anywhere.
Some of the areas where paternity testing has proven really helpful include:
• In legal situations such as child custody and child support.
• To prove someone’s claim to the inheritance.
• In immigration and adoption.
• When claiming social benefits.
• For general confirmation of paternity by consumers.
A DNA paternity test is one of the most accurate methods of determining parentage with results usually being over 99% accurate.
Of course, choosing a reputable paternity testing company is important in ensuring the quality and accuracy of test results.
One of the most interesting ways DNA paternity testing has been put to use it on television. Paternity Court TV is a popular TV show where a judge uses paternity DNA tests to decide cases brought before her.
Improving Health Outcomes
There are many diseases associated with genetic disorders.
Though it is difficult to prevent inherited diseases, having knowledge of possible diseases can help lower their severity or even in some cases prevent their occurrence altogether.
For example, a woman who understands that she is genetically predisposed to breast cancer may decide to undergo breast mastectomy to allay that risk. An individual whose ancestry has several members with diabetes will take extra care to live a wholesome lifestyle.
After confirming ancestry, it becomes easier to identify those health risks that might be passed down from other family members. For instance, ancestry research may uncover the presence of early-onset Alzheimer in one’s family line. This knowledge can help in improving health outcomes and possibly help safe medical expenses and select the right health insurance plan.
Power and Knowledge in Consumer Hands
The advancement of Genealogical DNA testing out of medical facilities and into consumer’s hands has had a big impact. People are discovering unknown family ties, connecting with lost relatives, settling family disputes and taking better charge of their health. This is power and knowledge in their hands.
The biggest selling points today for services providing consumer DNA testing are lower costs, guaranteed confidentiality, and faster testing speeds. In the future, it is inevitable that genealogical DNA testing will shift even closer to the consumer. See updated information for 2018.
DNA Testing For Dietary and Fitness Issues
DNA Fit’s “Fitness and Diet” Test
DNA Fit’s tagline is health re-imagined, and that seems like a pretty fair assessment of these at-home health tests. The process is much the same as any ancestry kit. Users send a saliva sample to DNAFit, who use the results to sequence the DNA. The aim here is to look at key markers for evidence of intolerance to factors like lactose, carbohydrates and other compounds. It also offers an insight into a user’s metabolism and training needs. This means a detailed plan of action on what to avoid when creating a diet and fitness plan. This amount of detail is important because this isn’t a cheap program. The combined Diet and Fitness plan is $299.
New Life Genetic’s “Weight Loss DNA Test”
New Life Genetic’s test as all about losing weight with a better understanding of the FTO obesity gene. The good news is that there is sometimes a deeper reason why diets fail. The bad news is that it is stuck in our genes and we can’t fix it. But, there are ways to work around these genes. This test looks at important factors that effect dieting. This includes insulin resistance, obesity risks and the effect of certain foods. The problem is once again the cost. At over $200 it is twice as expensive as other leading providers, and the same as DNAFit’s Diet-only plan. The information is helpful, but it is worth that much?
Helix does things a little differently. This company is more like a middleman between you and a selection of interesting products. You send your sample to them for a one-time genetic screening and receive your results. From there you can use that data with any of the products on their site. These products are from 3rd party suppliers. In fact, Helix has a partnership with DNAFit. One such product is Fitness Buddy from Azumio. This app uses genetic data to create a personal training regime. The costs are interesting here. It is $80 for a Helix DNA kit and $99 for the app subscription. Also, Helix has one of the most comprehensive catalogs of options right now.
DNA Tests for Health and Well-being
Heath DNA tests are great when it comes to more serious issues, such as those markers for major illness. Yet, this can all seem a little heavy. Many of us would like to see what our gene can unlock our traits and personalities, without all the doom and gloom of cancer risks or diet plans. Thankfully, there is a lighter side to DNA testing for wellness issues. This means testing on issues such as sleep patterns, aging processes and other factors that affect day-to-day living.
Orig3n’s “Beauty” Test
Pathway Genomics’ Mental Health DNA Insight
The Pathway test looks at DNA markers that may determine reactions to psychiatric medication. The proposal here is to help guide people struggling to find the right treatment plan for their condition. Mental healthcare resources are a little thin on the ground in many areas. The possibility of a DNA test for genetic markers could help users to understand risks and options for self-care. The problem is that this test is incredibly expensive compared to other tests. We have to question a price tag of $399 for mental health testing compared to Orig3n’s $99 beauty test. This especially true when we consider that this is all about a “most likely” response to medication.