A couple of years ago now I did my 23andMe genetic test. I was super excited to get the results back at the time, but when I did, I realized the information provided by 23andMe about your health is limited.
You can learn some fun facts from 23andMe such as whether or not you are likely to have cheek dimples (I’m not and I don’t) and you also get a Wellness Report which tells you things such as lactose tolerant or intolerant.
My report states I am likely lactose tolerant, which confirms what I thought from self-experimentation. I have cut out dairy several times over the past few years when I do a 30 Day Paleo Reset and I always reintroduced it without issue.
23andMe will give you information on 9 health conditions. It will tell you if a variant leading to increased risk of the below conditions has been detected or not.
23andMe also gives you ancestry information, which is really interesting.
However, in terms of actionable information you can use to improve your health, or guide the diet and lifestyle decisions you might make, the information from 23andMe is of limited use.
There are two other really useful (and reasonably priced) options you can go for to find out more information about using your genetic data to create a personalized diet and lifestyle plan. The first is a service called My Gene Food and the second is StrateGene.
My Gene Food
My Gene Food will use your raw genetic data (from 23andMe or any of the other genetic sequencing companies) to craft a custom nutrition plan for you.
My Gene Food have identified 20 distinct diet types based on genetics. They analyse your genetics for fat, protein, carbohydrate metabolism and more to find the diet best suited to you and your genetics.
I ran my raw data from 23andMe through My Gene Food and here’s what I found out…
The ideal diet for me (according to report from My Gene Food) is the Okinawan diet! The recommendation is to aim for a diet of 75% carbohydrate, 15% protein and 10% fat, with a low percentage of animal source foods.
You get given Five Food Rules. Here are mine:
This is basically the opposite to a paleo diet and really far from how I currently eat and my response to receiving this report was to immediately think it must be wrong!
It’s amazing how much we resist having our beliefs changed. However, I like challenging the status quo and so I’m definitely open to exploring this recommendation further.
I honestly did not think this would be the diet type that came out right for me, and that’s because I eat a low-ish carb, high fat paleo diet and feel really good on it.
I am not super low carb (I eat quite a lot of potatoes and sweet potatoes) but I’m pretty sure I eat less than 100g of carbohydrate most days. On a 75% carbohydrate diet I would need to be eating closer to 300g of carbohydrate per day.
The advice is to get most of my calories from whole food complex carbohydrate sources such as wholegrains, potatoes and sweet potatoes. The recommendation throughout the report is still to avoid processed and refined carbohydrates and to choose low-GI, high fibre carb sources.
So what gene variants led to this recommendation from My Gene Food?
In your report you get a comprehensive list of SNPs (Single Nucleotide Polymorphisms) that My Gene Food analyse when putting your report together.
They look at Fat, Protein and Carbohydrate metabolism. You get an overview of why the particular diet has been selected for you and then later in the report a detailed breakdown on the SNPs and what the science shows about each SNP and its effect on health outcomes.
Customer service from My Gene Food is excellent. I went back to them with several questions and they sent me a very comprehensive response and provided links to lots of studies that support their recommendations.
My Fat Genes
My Gene Food classify people based on key SNPs. I am in the sub-population of people who will likely respond poorly to saturated fat.
They acknowledge that there is tremendous variability between individuals in terms of how their lipids respond to a high fat diet.
I have variants in certain genes that suggest I may have issues maintaining a good HDL:LDL ratio and might have increased levels of LDL-C.
I also have a SNP in the NOS3 gene that is linked with decreased nitric oxide levels. Yet another SNP has been linked with increased cardiovascular risk.
I also carry markers in my LPA genes that are associated with elevated levels of Lp(a), which is a lipoprotein that is known to be very atherogenic and is associated with a greater risk for coronary artery disease.
All in all not a great picture and this is why I have fallen into the lowest fat dietary category – the Okinawan diet.
My Gene Food give optimal ranges for cholesterol and triglycerides:
- LDL-C: Optimal range – less than 100 mg/dl (or 2.6 mmol/l)
- HDL-C: Optimal range – more than 50mg/dl (or 1.3 mmol/l)
- Triglycerides: Optimal range – less than 150mg/dl (or 3.9 mmol/l)
- LDL Particle Number: Optimal range – less than 1000 nmol/l
- HbA1c: Optimal range – less than 5.7%
I had my cholesterol tested earlier this year. My results were LDL-C 97mg/dl (optimal), HDL-C 97mg/dl (optimal), Triglycerides 62mg/dl (optimal), HbA1c 4.9% (optimal).
So at the moment I seem to be doing OK on a lower carb higher fat diet. I went back to My Gene Food with my cholesterol results and they acknowledged that I could be what they term a “non/low responder” to saturated fat. However, without knowing my LDL particle number and Lp(a) level it is hard to say for sure.
I’m definitely going to be researching all of this further and will update this blog post as and when I have further thoughts.
StrateGene & My Gene Food for Other Useful Info on your Genes
StrateGene is a program developed by Ben Lynch, author of Dirty Genes. Their tag line is “The Whole Picture Approach to Genetic Reports”.
You run your 23andMe data through and get a pdf report showing you how clinically relevant genetic polymorphisms work and interact with your diet, lifestyle and environment.
Putting the information from StrateGene together with the other useful info on SNPs from My Gene Food has given me some extra insights into my health besides just the possible macronutrient ratio of my ideal diet.
Both StrateGene and My Gene Food highlighted SNPs that may cause issues with my methylation cycle. My Gene Food provided useful tips such as “consider supplementing your diet with a low to moderate dose B vitamin that includes the methylated version of these vitamins.”
BCO1, FUT2 and NQ01
StrateGene highlighted SNPs in my BCO1 genes that suggest a more than 50% reduction in the ability to convert beta-carotene to retinol and recommend Vitamin A supplementation.
They also suggested investigating B12 deficiency and due to a variant in NQ01 I am also likely less efficient at converting CoQ10 to it’s active form and may benefit from supplementing with ubiquinol, the active form of CoQ10.
Both My Gene Food and StrateGene highlighted some genes that suggest I may have some degree of histamine intolerance. I do suffer from seasonal allergies and I definitely react to high histamine foods during hayfever season so I’m not surprised by these results.
I really enjoyed running my 23andMe data through both My Gene Food and StrateGene. It’s fascinating to be able to find out all this information, and I’m certain that personalized nutrition and lifestyle recommendations based on your genetics and probably your gut microbiome and other factors too is the future of healthcare.
You can see that you get some really useful information about your genetics from both services.
Will I Be Changing My Diet?
At the moment I do feel that all of these testing and interpretation services are in their early stages, and while the information is interesting I think you need to be cautious.
I am not sure we know enough about the interaction between genes, our environment, our gut microbiota, our early life experiences, etc.
If the recommended diet type had come out similar to how I eat now I think I would have adapted my diet based on the recommendations.
But the Okinawan diet is such a big change from how I eat at the moment, and my blood chemistry results suggest I am doing OK on my current diet. So my plan at the moment is just to research all of this further.
My Gene Food admit that a lot of the studies looking at the effects of different SNPs are looking at an unhealthy sampling of people/people suffering from disease, and we just don’t know if the findings are applicable to healthy people.
I remember being so excited when I got my first Ubiome results back three years ago, I thought the results would tell me what I needed to do to improve my health. Now we are finding out that the bacteria revealed by stool tests like Ubiome probably only accounts for around 20% of the bacteria that are actually in our gut, and don’t tell us anything about the viruses, fungi and other microorganisms. So these tests probably don’t have much clinical utility.
Chris Kresser when talking about genetics says “Genetics load the gun, but environment pulls the trigger.” We know that our diet and environment play a large role in the expression of genes and so for now I am going to keep doing what’s working for me while I research further. Watch this space for updates!
Have you used 23andMe and run your results through any of the genetic analysis programs? Comment below if you have a story to share. I’d love to hear from you.
Disclaimer: Paleo Britain is a participant in the Amazon EU Associates Programme, an affiliate advertising programme designed to provide a means for sites to earn advertising fees by advertising and linking to Amazon.co.uk. Buying through our affiliate links does not cost you anything but helps us keep this website up and running. Thank you!
All information provided within this blog post is for informational purposes only, and is not to be construed as medical advice or instruction. Please consult your GP or a qualified health professional on any matters regarding your health and wellbeing or on any opinions expressed within this blog post. The information provided in this blog post is believed to be accurate based on the best judgment of the author. However, you as the reader must be responsible for consulting with your own GP or other health professional on matters raised within. Paleo Britain will not accept responsibility for the actions or consequential results of any action taken by any reader.
The material in this blog post may include information, products or services by third parties. Third Party Materials comprise of the products and opinions expressed by their owners. As such, Paleo Britain does not assume responsibility or liability for any Third Party material or opinions. The publication of such Third Party Materials does not constitute our guarantee of any information, instruction, opinion, products or services contained within the Third Party Material. Publication of such Third Party Material is simply a recommendation and an expression of our own opinion of that material.