This year, Mountain View, California-based personal genomics and biotechnology company 23andMe and genetic startup Helix started offering DNA analysis to people so they can be aware of which diseases they are most predisposed to, and hopefully do something about it.
But knowing what to do to not face an early grave does not mean people will do it, the study said.
Eighteen of the people who mail-ordered the DNA testing kit did not change or alter their diet and alcohol consumption. They did not stop smoking, did not start getting protection from sun exposure, and did not subject themselves to regular medical screenings, proving that these kits may not be that effective in saving a life.
They still did all of these things even when faced with the very real threat of getting sick from diabetes, obesity, cancer, heart disease, Alzheimer's, or Parkinson's disease.
A 23andMe direct-to-consumer saliva collection test kit that can also determine information regarding your ancestry costs around $199 while a Heliz decode costs $80. 23andMe started selling these kits in April of this year, after the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) warned the company three years ago that it still had to gain approval for these products. Helix started offering its DNA testing services in July.
There are two factors that the kits take into consideration when predicting a person's predisposition to a certain type of disease: genetic risk and lifestyle behaviors.
Though some diseases are caused by a single malfunctioning gene, more common illnesses are influenced by multiple genes, and most of the time each gene contributes to a person's risk of general unwellness. (Related: Genetics have little influence over health, top stem cell biologist asserts.)
While some people won't listen to reason, others see the information they gleaned from the tests as a wake-up call, and have since turned their lives around.
Dr. Francis Collins, director of the United States National Institutes of Health knew about his predisposition to type-2 diabetes via the DNA testing. “It was a kick in the pants. It was an opportunity to wake up and say, “It was a kick in the pants. It was an opportunity to wake and say, 'Maybe I'm not going to be immortal and maybe there are things I am doing to myself that aren't healthy that I ought to change'.”
Collins lost 35 pounds.
Helix co-founder Dr. James Lu said lifestyle changes for people who had access to their DNA information are uncertain, but that given the proper information, education, and support, people might just start living healthier.
Dr. Robert C. Green of Brigham and Women's Hospital in Boston, Massachusetts and a scientific adviser to companies that do genetic testing, thinks that the fact that some people won't change their lifestyles efen after learning what habits might likely kill them doesn't discount the fact that the DNA tests are a success in themselves, noting “It doesn't necessarily mean that it doesn't help people. I think people have the right to this information.”
Read more stories such as this one at Healing.news.