I Tried 23andMe’s Genetic Testing Kit and Here’s All the Fascinating Stuff I Learned
You’ve probably already heard of 23andMe—for a few years, it’s been an easy way to learn about your ancestry. Just spit in a tube, mail it away and in a few weeks, it’ll send you a website full of pie charts and graphs about where your distant relatives came from (and in some cases, find a long-lost brother). But now that it’s been approved by the FDA to provide genetic information about diseases and carrier status, it’s become an even more useful tool to learn about your health and the traits you might pass down to your family. It’s no substitute for seeing a doctor for a genetic screening, but I definitely learned some fascinating things from my test.
I’m More Jewish Than I Thought
My mom’s ancestry has always been a bit fuzzy for me. She didn’t know her father, she was an only child and both she and my maternal grandmother died when I was young, so there are a lot of pieces to put together. But according to 23andMe, my mom was nearly 100 percent Ashkenazi Jewish—I knew I had some Jewish roots, but I had no idea it totaled almost 50 percent. And thanks to my Dad, who also took a 23andMe test, I also discovered I have a fair amount of Neanderthal variants (which means, yep, somewhere in history one of my relatives mated with a Neanderthal). Whoa.
I’m Not a Genetic Carrier (of the Variants They Test For)
23andMe by no means offers a comprehensive checklist of all of the genetic diseases a doctor could test for, but I felt a flood of relief when I discovered I had no increased risk of Late-Onset Alzheimer’s Disease, Parkinson’s Disease, Alpha-1 Antitrypsin Deficiency or Hereditary Thrombophilia, and wasn’t a carrier of cystic fibrosis, nonsyndromic hearing loss and deafness and a handful of other genetic diseases, based on the genetic variants 23andMe analyzed. Great news for me and my future kids.
I Found a Cousin I Didn’t Know I Had
The coolest part of 23andMe? Getting to scroll through the “DNA Relatives” portal to see if you’re related to anyone else who took a test. The closest relative (besides my dad, of course) is a second cousin I’ve never heard of, who, after a quick Google search, appears to be a big-deal endocrinologist in New York City. 23andMe gives you the option to reach out to these distant relatives (going all the way up to eighth cousins)—but it feels a little weird to reach out to a guy I’ve never met just because we share 11 DNA segments. Still, it’s definitely neat to have a doctor in the family.
My Fiancé Probably Won’t Go Bald
Like most men in their 30s, my fiancé has spent the last ten years agonizing over whether or not he will eventually lose his hair. So I made him take a 23andMe test with me. And great news, he’s not genetically likely to have any hair loss. Hallelujah. Coolest of all, you can match up your partner’s traits next to yours, so you can see what your future kids might be like (ours are likely to have dark eyes and love salty snacks).
I’m Not Lactose Intolerant
And the most important thing of all: I can eat cheese. Phew. 23andMe tells me it’s very highly unlikely I’m intolerant to lactose. Unfortunately, my fiancé found out the opposite. For the last year, he’d been suspecting he might have issues with dairy, but whenever I suggested he switch to coconut milk, he’d change the subject and order a pizza. But when he saw his official results in black and white, he had no choice but to face the truth and start drinking almond milk lattes. (Hey, I’m just glad it’s not me.)