Should You Get Your Genome Sequenced?

Genetic Disease ConceptEarlier this year, I explored the “evolution” of human dietary requirements in the last 10,000 years by examining some of the SNPs – single nucleotide polymorphisms, or variations in genetic sequences – that relate to diet and nutrition. I concluded that while certain genetic changes to the way we process certain foods have arisen in certain populations, for the most part we’re still best off eating from an ancestral, Primal spread of animals, sea creatures, and plant life. Nothing has changed on that front in my mind, but people are still understandably curious about their genetic predispositions toward various conditions, and, with the recent reduction in price for SNP sequencing from 23andMe (to $99 with no subscriptions required), as well as slightly more affordable full-on genome sequencing (~$1000) on the not so distant horizon, it’s easier than ever to actually do it.

But should you?

I definitely don’t think everyone should do it. It’s the least expensive it’s ever been, but there are other factors to consider before making your choice and taking the plunge.

The stress of “knowing.”

What if you were to do it and the results came back showing you carried the allele for an increased risk of heart attack? Would you go on statins? Would you change your diet? Would you freak out and bounce from veganism to Primal to fruitarian? You might not even change anything about your lifestyle, continuing to eat healthy and exercise regularly and get plenty of sleep only, but with the addition of a nice helping of useless stress to go along with it and complicate matters. And the added stress can make the threat of disease even higher.

Laymen misinterpreting data.

“The gene for” is a scary phrase that’s permeated our culture. We worry about the gene for breast cancer, the gene for Alzheimer’s, the gene for baldness, and so on, but the reality of genetics is much more complex. Most of us aren’t equipped to evaluate the data we get from these services, and trying to do so may get us into trouble.

An excess of data and paucity of interpretation.

We know a good amount, but the field of personal genomics is still in its infancy. What if you come up with a particular SNP that has successfully predicted a disease in several studies – you’re gonna get that disease, right? No. In all those studies that showed a connection, not every single person with that SNP got the disease. There could be other, unknown alleles that interact with the original “bad” SNP, countering it and rendering it null. There could be lifestyle factors that affect the expression of the gene variant, intensifying or negating it. We just don’t know yet. And in case you thought we just need more data to get it right, getting more elaborate sequencing may confuse things even more, at least until the experts are better versed in analyzing the results.

Inaccurate results.

They’re still working out the kinks on this stuff, as one journalist who tried out several different competing genome sequencing services and got wildly varying results discovered. Or how when Razib Khan, a huge proponent of 23andMe and other sequencing services, used the ancestry feature set and found out that while he was 40% Asian, his daughter was only 8% Asian. He was able to adjust the parameters and get it figured out, but the average consumer may be misled.

That said, it’s true that the more people get sequenced, the more data the experts will have to draw on and learn from. Thus, doing it could help “the greater good,” if you care about that sort of thing. I actually think that’s a legit reason to get the sequencing if you’re going to do it, but it may not be enough to justify it in your eyes (and wallet).

If you’re a chronic worrier, a person who assumes the worst and runs to Google whenever you get an odd symptom (remember, everything’s cancer on Google), use caution. Sequencing your genome or getting an SNP analysis could ease your worry and show you that you’ve got nothing going on, or it could kick start your mania and make things even worse. If you thought Primal blogs and message boards get unnecessarily arcane, check out the level of analysis on personal genome sites! I was tempted to write “overanalysis” back there, but did not, because the complexities of genome research are such that detailed analysis is often required rather than overkill. And that’s my point: if you don’t have the time for it – if you’ve already got a busy schedule and heaping more work on top of it would only add stress – it’s probably not worth it.

If you’re the curious sort, a person who wants to know how much Neanderthal blood you’ve got and whether your earwax is moist or dry, go for it. You’ll likely find some interesting data to play around with. If you can afford it, you’ll probably be glad you got sequenced.

If you’re already doing everything right, wowing the doctors with your health markers, losing weight if you have some to lose, improving in the gym, and generally just feeling fantastic, you probably don’t need it. You might learn a few things, but it won’t all of a sudden invalidate your current healthy habits.

If you’re the type who needs a kick in the pants to get going and get healthy, if you’ve been lagging and feeling crummy, if you need the fear of the genome to get you moving in the right direction, getting sequenced might be worth it. 

Gene expression is still king. Just because you got your results back and have the SNP “for” a particular condition doesn’t mean you’re going to get it. You might be more likely to get it provided you engage in certain behaviors. However, many of these behaviors are things you are already (or should be) avoiding: sitting inside watching TV all day, eating processed refined food for all your meals, eating food fried in rancid seed oils, failing to exercise or move your body on a daily basis, being socially isolated, never experiencing nature, failing to use your brain, and rarely laughing or smiling. Sure, a few genetic states might conflict with the general Primal advice:

  • Like a sunlight allergy; if you’re allergic to the sun, you’ll know it because it might feel like “hot wax” on your bare skin.
  • Folks with hereditary hemochromatosis may absorb and store excessive amounts of iron, which can increase inflammation and lead to various illnesses. Testing ferritin levels, giving blood and limiting dietary iron – or consuming iron-chelating coffee, tea, and red wine with iron-rich foods – are good moves for people concerned about hemochromatosis.
  • Some people carry an allele that impairs their ability to utilize and convert folic acid, but that just means you should be getting your folate from leafy greens and organ meats rather than folic acid supplements – which you should be doing anyway.

Overall, I like the potential of genetic sequencing, but it’s not quite there yet. Family history trumps genetic data, at least for now. Ask Grandma about her parents and parents’ parents, look at old family photos, explore causes of death for your relatives – these will give you a nice general picture of the state of your genetic susceptibility to various diseases. It’s not as “exact” as genome sequencing, but it’s much easier to analyze.

In the end, whatever your genome has to say about you, the basics are always going to work out. Eating plants and animals, walking a lot, lifting heavy stuff, sprinting, and all the other usual Primal Blueprint advice is never going out of style. For that reason, I’m not very interested in getting my genome or SNPs sequenced. Over the course of almost sixty years, I’ve got a pretty good handle on what makes me tick, what makes me feel like crap, and what makes me healthy, happy, strong, fit, productive, and energetic. If, for argument’s sake, I discovered that whatever I’m currently doing to feel all those awesome things would somehow negatively interact with a random gene mutation, I still wouldn’t change a thing.

But I sure as heck might worry more.

Thanks for reading, folks. I’d love to hear from you, now. Have you had your genetics sequenced? Are you interested?

About the Author

Mark Sisson is the founder of Mark’s Daily Apple, godfather to the Primal food and lifestyle movement, and the New York Times bestselling author of The Keto Reset Diet. His latest book is Keto for Life, where he discusses how he combines the keto diet with a Primal lifestyle for optimal health and longevity. Mark is the author of numerous other books as well, including The Primal Blueprint, which was credited with turbocharging the growth of the primal/paleo movement back in 2009. After spending three decades researching and educating folks on why food is the key component to achieving and maintaining optimal wellness, Mark launched Primal Kitchen, a real-food company that creates Primal/paleo, keto, and Whole30-friendly kitchen staples.

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87 thoughts on “Should You Get Your Genome Sequenced?”

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  1. I actually want to get my husband’s genome sequenced before we have kids. He’s adopted so we know absolutely nothing about his family medical history. I’d really like to know what kinds of things to keep an eye out for from our possible offspring (and for his possible health as he ages).

        1. Open adoption all the way. Not that they had a choice back then.

    1. I’m adopted, and I know some minor things about my birth parents (who were both 16 years old when I was born), such as, they both had parents with heart problems and diabetes. Given where I was this time last year, I was on track for something similar. Eating and exercising in a Paleo fashion has improved all of my health markers, which makes me happy happy happy.

      The State of Pennsylvania offers a service for adoptees to find out their familial medical histories. Maybe the state where your husband was born has something similar?

      For what its worth, I had my daughter three years ago, and I have to say that its so nice to finally have someone in my life that I’m genetically related to!

    2. I agree this is a dangerous walk to take. My mom’s also adopted and knows nothing of her medical history. What if she had found out her possible predispositions before having us? Would she have skipped having kids after seeing some of the things that manifested? Knowing my mom, I have a feeling she would have been very miserable without the four kids she has, despite the health issues that have arisen. What if you find out about a predisposition to something awful – are you going to forgo children? Would you really be ok with that? Or, are you going to spend your pregnancy/child’s life fearing the possibility? What if you go ahead and the worse happens, are you going to now blame yourself for the rest of your life for taking the risk? Having children comes with enough stresses – why add more?
      Sometimes its better to just live life the way it is – for better or worse.

    3. Just have the kids and deal with whatever life throws at you, it’s worth it!!! would you not have them if there would be a certain gene there? it’s like not going out the door in case you get run over by a car or not getting in a relationship so you won’t get hurt. Life’s too short to over analyze everything…

  2. I think your behavior and diet have a much bigger impact on your health than your DNA does. Pretty much every male in my family is bald. When I was 20 my hair started falling out at a faster rate and I began freaking out. First I tried rogain and then moved to propecia. The propecia worked and stopped my hair from falling out and I maintained at that level of hair. About a year ago when I went back on paleo I decided to stop taking the propecia mainly because I was lazy and forgot to go to the drug store. After a few months I noticed that my hair was still nice and thick and it wasn’t coming out when I shower. So now at 27 I have thicker fuller hair than when I was 20. By genetics I should have a big old bald spot by now but my hair looks completely normal. Is it the fact that I get more sleep or maybe by paleo diet or even the fact that I reduced my stress at work? I don’t know but I am taking better care of myself now in every way compared to when I was in college and it led to me reversing my genetic predisposition.

    1. Yeah, most people’s DNA isn’t very different. Epigenetics and gene expression are much more adaptable. +1

      1. Yes!…and dose dependency and posttranslational modifications and synergistic effects etc. As mention in previous articles, correlation analyses (when the tools work well, incl. negative controls) are great hypothesis generators nothing else.

  3. My aunt died of cancer. There were enough irregularities in her case that she was offered free gene sequencing so they could research it some more. She refused, because there is currently nothing in US law that says an insurance company would not be able to use that data in determining her daughters’ eligibility and rates for medical insurance.

    1. Exactly! This is similar to malevolent efforts to sequence genomes of native americans, which would be used to say “oh looks like you actually have no ancestry of (such and such) native descent so we ( owe you nothing.

  4. This is a very well-balanced article. I’m a genetic counselor and get a lot of questions about sequencing or SNP testing. It is so important that people educate themselves and not oversimplify the information. Genetics is so complex and much of the data received from this test cannot be fully understood. Genetic counselors can be very helpful to put things in perspective.

    Also, the “$1000 genome” will be raw data. Making sense of the data will cost quite a bit more in the near future while we are still trying to make sense of it.

    That being said, I would love to have my genome sequenced!

    1. Imagine being a genome sequence reader, perusing perpetual pages of A,C,G, and T. That would make for some very dull dreams.

  5. I am a science writer and biology teacher, and I’ve had a lot to say on this subject in the recent past. I agree completely that some of the sites present the data in a way that is vauge and hard to interpret and might lead to misinterpretation or over-concern.

    However, I and most of my family got the 23andMe kit when it first came out. I found out that I do seem to have an allele that makes me poorer at metabolizing caffeine, which helped me better understand my reaction to teas and coffees. Basically I get jittery after one *decaf* coffee and can start to get palpitations after two. So that improved my health. Also, I found out my susceptibility to warfarin, which knockonwood might be a life-or-death piece of information someday.

    My sister is adopted, so it was very important to get more info on her medical history. We found out that she is a carrier for cystic fibrosis, which was worth the price for all of our tests combined.

  6. If you are someone with chronic issues. I’d def say get the test. I wanted to know my APOE status so I would know if I would have to tweak diet. I wanted to know if I was a slow or fast metabolizer for caffeine. It was very informative to know that I was a non-secretor which is only present in 20% of the population who don’t secrete their blood type antigens into a lot of immune factors (and i was, explaining a lot!)

    The list goes on and on. After studying health related stuff for years there was no test that has told me more info about my personal health the the gene test.

    I love the wealth of info Marks shares on his site, but find it hard to believe he could make so many comments about gene testing without having done the test himself. I think he would be surprised!

  7. I got mine done through 23 and me and couldn’t be happier. It shows one of my highest medical risks as celiac disease. Good thing I won’t need to be worrying about that! 😀

    It also told me I have 2.8% Neanderthal DNA, which is a bit higher than average. Rawr 😉

    1. I got mine done through NatGeo’s genographic project and wish I had done 23 and me instead, so that I might have had some more actionable data.

      I am only 1.5% neanderthal. This was gravely disappointing…

  8. I’ll be interested the very moment they also have corresponding treatments for anything that might come up, otherwise what’s the point other than needless worrying?

    1. Yep, how did our ancestors ever survive without knowing the future?

      Also, am I going to trust an expert that I have the gene for something? Not likely.

  9. Headed over to 23&Me to look over their new pricing.

    My motivation is that there has been talk that the FDA should regulate this type of testing and make it something I can’t get for my own information just because I want it.

  10. I think this is an interesting discussion, but the tech still isn’t quite there. We should focus more on epigenetics versus our genes that is where the magic happens. Stay classy paleosphere

  11. I did 23&me last summer and was surprised to find that I’m in the top 99 percent for Neanderthal genes!

  12. We did this for my husband who is adopted and had no clue about his family history. I also did it (curiosity), but there is apparently ‘no DNA in my saliva’ (!)Lol

  13. I have this done awhile, ago 23 and me , I’m a slow caffeine metabolizer so I should Avoid it.

    I also not a carrier of the know variants of genetic diseases.
    example “Does not have any of the three mutations in the HFE gene linked to hereditary hemochromatosis. May still have other mutations in the HFE gene (not reported here)”

    I have both a higher and lower risk for celiac.
    2.5 % Neanderthal Baby!

    I have the lactose tolerance gene. Full fat dairy

    Genes for lower fasting Blood glucose – (91 mg/dl) any thing below 100 is normal.

  14. You’re kidding me!! I just purchased this today and I’m late checking out today’s post. My grandfather died in WWII (grandma “gave it up” to him – they never married :)). My dad never knew him – born May ’42. I’m curious about any little bit of info. This is where our family diabetes is coming from. I followed the healthiest version of the SAD while trying to lose 10lbs and I was losing weight and becoming diabetic (oatmeal and fruit were the worst). So my curiousity is there. And my mom is 100% Scottish so I’m curious on that side, too.

    1. I don’t plan on taking anything to heart. One thing I’ve learned in the last couple of years is don’t put a lot of faith into anything you read or numbers you might see. One thing Primal has taught me is that our genes are not our destiny. I won’t become full blown diabetic as long as I stay Primal. I caught it. I stopped the progress – at least down my direct line (probably will be no kids anyway). And since health insurance is being forced on us – no worries there either.

      1. Just remember it was only a few years go that the average yield for a medium risk, diversified investment portfolio was 7.249%. With CPI a constant 2.205%, dividends reinvested, and compounding for 30 yrs plus an ever increasing home price… Austrian economist and Nobel Peace Prize winner Friedrich Hayek explained why econometrics do not work. Hooters also has a wet nap that states 48% of all stats are wrong.

        Unlike economics genetics is anchored in real science, albeit extremely complex. Not sure how useful such a product is to me but I love the power of a freer market that is providing a product of increasing value at a falling price.

        I for one cannot WAIT for national health care. Finally the efficiency of the DMV and the warm prodding of the TSA can be had at a doctor’s office. Hooray!

      2. Note: I agree with Heather on the numbers issue.

        Regarding the sciences around healthcare, new info can be wrong, biased, etc. but still can be taught or practiced as gospel. There are two qualities I want in a physician: autodidacticism and warm hands.

  15. Absolutely don’t. If you go to 23&me, look at the Alzheimer Forum for those with the APOE 4 gene. Those poor folks are desperate, without genetic counseling, and their posts reflect the terror of having a 90% chance of this horrible disease hanging over their heads. They have no guidance, no support. Read their posts and ask if you want to go there. . . ask your spouse, parents & children. Because when you test yourself, you are also testing a part of them. Can you all deal with what you discover? What will you do when your insurance company supeonas the information from the service as it sues to deny you and your whole family coverage? Nothing in their TOS protects you from having them turn your data over in a lawsuit.

    1. I get pretty frustrated with people who accept a disease based on doctors diagnosis and/or genetic history. Even mental illnesses. Call me bloody-minded. None of it is set in stone. Not even concrete. We’re fluid beings with a massive propensity to change, cure, grow etc. Just do the research and experimentation and sort it out before it’s too late.

  16. I suppose if a lot of your sequins have fallen off, it’s a great idea to get your jeans re-sequined. Otherwise, it’s probably a waste of money.

  17. I’ve done it, had a discount code and had it done when it was $99 (before it went up then came back down) so only paid $50. I find this stuff very interesting, but don’t worry too much about it. I figure if I have a 5% chance of getting something, that means I have a 95% of not, so odds are still in my favor. The ancestry bit was really interesting, and the Neanderthal especially. At 2.9% I’m pretty up there.

  18. Hah, it’s funny how people brag about their percentage of Neanderthal genes.
    I remember it used to be a insult:)

  19. I think a big exception would be people with known or suspected Ashkenazi ancestry, or other certain ethnic groups with high levels of Autosomal recessive diseases such as Cajuns or Amish. I had some known and some suspected Ashkenazi ancestry, 23andme made it clear how much I had and which autosomal recessive diseases I carried (not many, none serious). You used to have to fret about this and go to a genetic counselor to get the final say. If I had found I carried Tay Sachs I would definitely take a different approach to child-bearing.

  20. I understand the point of view but I have to respectfully disagree. Especially with the $99 pricing from 23andMe, any information that educates a consumer is a step in the right direction. Too many people rely on a broken symptom care system and do not take charge of their own health. While in its infancy, your results should not change so you can always look at your SNPs with the current algorithm. Had I listened to my doctor about my low testosterone being “just andropause” at 49 years old and not investigated further, they would not have found the large pituitary turmor that was causing the issue. Over 45% of the population is expected to have methylation gene mutations. These mutations can lead to a myriad of serious diseases and health issues. Any tools that can help me be my own wellness advocate are definitely important to me.

    1. I agree with Art, I just did 23andme, and although they no longer provide medical information, you can get that via downloading your raw data from their site to mthfrsupport or and get a pdf of your genotype and associated risks. Of course, this information is best used in conjuction with a pertinent family health history and consulting with a knowledgeable doc about how to approach any mutations that may be bothersome. It is all about optimization and prevention. Knowledge is power. IT gives you some options to work with. And most MTHFR docs say straight off the first step is clean up your lifestyle: heal your gut, eat right, clean up your environment, all very paleo. The supplements come later if needed, like being homozygous for MTHFR c677T. Now I need to figure out how to optimize my rs5186(C;C) allele which puts me at a 7fold increase for hypertension. No wonder, both my parents are on meds, and I will need them soon despite my paleo lifestyle.

  21. Hi Mark —

    I work at 23andMe and have a PhD in genetics. Thank you for sharing some balanced information on this new world of personal genomics.

    I’d like to amplify a few of your points:

    * Whether or not to get genotyped is indeed a personal choice, and we’re happy that we’re able to offer people that choice. For those who are on the fence, it’s worth noting that a number of researchers have studied the very question you pose: how are people affected emotionally by learning their genetic results? Most studies are finding that people handle their genetic information pretty well. Here’s a recent post on our blog, rounding up several studies:


    * You’re right that genetics is a complex subject, and that science’s understanding of the relationship between DNA and health is improving at a brisk pace. That said, there are a number of solid findings right now, that you can do something about. For instance, you can learn about whether you’re susceptible to problems with blood clots (that’s the “venous thromboembolism” report). For those with higher risk of blood clots, you want to make sure your doctor knows about that if you’re having major surgery, or if you’re pregnant. You should also be mindful about sitting still for long periods of time, making sure to stop for breaks, or get up and move around. Other conditions where the science is pretty strong, and you can take action, include macular degeneration and colorectal cancer.

    * Much of my own work at 23andMe is on ancestry analysis. You mentioned that Razib found fault with a previous edition of our “Ancestry Painting” analysis — indeed, that analysis did not work so well for those with South Asian ancestry. We’ve recently retired that analysis and replaced it with a brand new version called “Ancestry Composition.” This new version does a much better job with South Asian ancestry, and across the board. Razib himself wrote of a discovery of his, using Ancestry Composition, of a cool surprise in the excellent genetics blogger Daniel MacArthur’s genome.


    * You pointed out the Cleveland Clinic study’s finding that family history trumps genetics. We recently published a paper on PLoS Genetics on the topic. It’s a mathy paper, but the point is that right now, if you had to pick either genetics or family history, there are plenty of conditions in which you should choose genetics, in terms of prediction ability. These tend to be rarer, more-heritable conditions, like Crohn’s disease, Parkinson’s and most cancers. (Figure 3 has a cool picture of which conditions are, currently, better predicted by genetics, and which are better predicted by family history.) Family history versus genetics, though, is a straw man. It’s in your interest to be aware of both your family history and your genetics, and share them with your doc.


    Yours, Mike Macpherson

  22. And then of course we have the privacy issue.

    We still do not have an Internet bill of rights in the U.S. plus, do we know what 23andme is doing with their Db on everyone’s DNA? What happens if 23andme is acquired by an insurance company or worse….Google!

    I am curious but knowing how many of these firms collecting all kinds of information on us and making “us” the product is an issue we should not discount or treat lightly! When Google says “free” or 23andme says “low cost”, I begin to think they are using me as a bigger product available to willing bidders.

  23. Twibble said above: “My aunt died of cancer. There were enough irregularities in her case that she was offered free gene sequencing so they could research it some more. She refused, because there is currently nothing in US law that says an insurance company would not be able to use that data in determining her daughters’ eligibility and rates for medical insurance.” This concern is no longer true:

    The Genetic Information Nondiscrimination Act of 2008, also referred to as GINA, is a new federal law that protects Americans from being treated unfairly because of information about their DNA. The new law prevents discrimination from health insurers and employers. The President signed the act into federal law on May 21, 2008. The parts of the law relating to health insurers took effect in May 2009, and those relating to employers took effect in November 2009. The law does not apply to all kinds of insurance. Specifically, the law does not cover life insurance, disability insurance and long-term care insurance. Before the federal law was passed, many states had passed laws against genetic discrimination. The degree of protection from these laws varies widely among the different states. The federal law sets a minimum standard of protection that must be met in all states. It does not weaken the protections provided by any state law.

    (Excerpted from FAQs at: )

  24. Im of chinese descent, i have been largely vegetarian most of my life with small amount of meat & fish every day, under 500g in raw weight altogether per week. No dairy etc as they make me sick. No junk either, or flour products or white sugar, sticky. But i have 2 bowls of rice a day, no bread etc.
    I tried go primal for 5 days, but just eating meat & veges alone gave me much nausea and indigestion. Can anyone offer advice? Much appreciated! Thank you.

    1. There is nothing wrong with being vegetarian, as look at Mark Sisson’s son. He is vegetarian and is as healthy as Mr. Sisson. What I’ve learned over the years, is that we are a diverse species, many cultures and tribes from all over the world have different diets. Meat-heavy eaters like the Inuit, or plant-heavy eaters like the Polynesians. They are all very, very healthy but with just different ratios of food. If you really want to know what to eat, look into your ancestry, I’m a northern European and I’ve looked into a meat-heavy diet.

      1. I’ve learned that I’m tired of the “we’re all purple snowflakes and it’s all good” meme when it comes to nutrition. 😉

        People do stay reasonably healthy on vegetarianism. It’s a testament to the flexibility of our stomachs. However, “reasonably healthy” doesn’t mean ideal or even thriving.

        The Polynesians live in the tropics and have far less stressors to deal with than the Intuits. (Polynesians also have a predisosition to become very overweight.) It’s highly doubtful that a plant based diet would provide enough calories and nutrients to make the arctic survivable.

        If the original poster is happy with his health, he probably should stay were he is. Eating “a little meat and fish” everyday is decidedly not vegetarian. (It sounds very Chinese, actually) The feeling nauseous is about the switch over in digestive enzymes and probably would pass within 2-3 weeks.

    2. I’ve got two links, depending on which way you want to go. Here is advice for reintroducing meat to your diet, or in your case, adding more

      If you’d rather stay largely vegetarian, this article contains advice towards the bottom for primal vegetarians, including a link to a post on another site, by someone who is a primal vegetarian about how they eat.

      I hope these are helpful.

    1. That was most interesting, JD! Thank you for sharing. I went ahead and sent for mine.

      1. I’m hoping to discover a “secretly cool” gene among my ancestors. The trait is not apparent in my family or myself now, but I’m crossing my fingers. Not sure what I’ll do with the knowledge.

        1. NOTHING interesting about my ancestors! Turns out I’m just what I seem like. A garden-variety Irish American. 2.7% Neanderthal, which is fairly typical.

  25. For me it is worth it to do for the ancestorial part. Since my dad is 78 and he is my only relative that has the Y chromosome, I need to do it now or never. Especially if I want to know my history on tht side of the family

  26. I think it works both ways, if you had your DNA sequenced you would not change a thing and you take care of your health. I think that if people knew what they were pre-disposed to (do a short family medical history and you can at least have a guess) people would not change their behaviour. In fact, even when people do get diagnosed behaviour is difficult to change.

    I think the key element here for some people is increased worry…I would certainly stress more knowing my unexpected genetic predispositions.

  27. You bring up a lot of great points in this post and I just wanted to share my 2 cents because you got me thinking.
    I’ve been told that I have a progressive hereditary disease (sensory peripheral neuropathy) and I beat back the symptoms everyday. Going Paleo has been and continues to be a major factor in keeping the disease at bay. But I’ve never had it confirmed that it is hereditary. While initially when reading your post I thought– “wow I need to look into this!” — it then occurred to me that it might shift my thinking from positive to defeated given that I would then have a preconceived notion of my fate.
    Thus, I think I’ll remain blissfully ignorant on that front and just keep trying maximize what I’ve got until I can’t. Thanks for your blog and your insight.

  28. I have a PhD in molecular genetics and stem cell biology and my work field is genetic pathways and gene expression (transcription factors, epigenetics, stem cell differentiation, immunology and cancer). I would suggest to use the $1000 to buy a cow…and eat it!
    Let’s keep things simple folks! Ditch the grains, lift heavy things, sprint and rest/play. If counting calories is a hassle, what is genome sequencing and data interpretation?

    1. Huh…
      Must admit that a no-bullshit approach to life is all that it takes.
      Hearing that from a PhD in molecular genetics makes it very amusing though… It’s not typical scientist talk ya know…

      mmmm….1000$ worth of grass fed beef sounds really really nice…
      Maybe we should get the cow sequenced as well?

  29. For some people, information is power. For others, it’s prison. Better to know which you are before you go solving any mysteries.


    It is not a question of “the” test, there are only a few common mutations in specific genes that are correlated well enough with disease to be worth testing.

    What’s far more interesting is the effect that a person’s collection of variants may have on gene regulation, and what sorts of degenerative or spontaneous conditions this might predispose them to.

    Joining a project like the PGP (Personal Genome Project) addresses both the need for larger sample sizes in evaluating genetic associations, and potentially decoding certain epigenetic aspects that interface the genome and transcriptome.

    The amount of data being generated in hopes of understanding normal and abnormal epigenomes is staggering. It will make most genome projects look like itty bitty trickles of data. We are now entering an era where biological data is growing to the size that physicists have dealt with for many years.

    You’ll note that physicists rarely claim to have “the” answer. Similarly, one single genome or collection of cellular epigenomes won’t have answers, but the progression over time of a large number of them may well define what the most pressing concerns for an individual might be.

    Note the word ‘individual’. All of our genomes are personal, no two are exactly identical (certainly not by adulthood; spontaneous somatic mutations arise even in twins, and epigenetic changes never stop, nor are they completely erased from sperm). At least the process of learning about ourselves (individually, rather than en masse) won’t be boring.

    Support the PGP ( It matters. If you’re going to get your genome sequenced, make it count!

  31. I had some genetic testing done for health issues, was told I needed to eat a low fat, low protien, high carb diet. Which I tried and felt terrible on. Around that time, I found paleo/primal and decided that since I felt better on it, I would continue on it. 6 months later I got a letter from the genetics lab saying due to new research, the category I fell into should eat low carb, not high carb. Do what your guts tell you is right, nobody else

    1. Annalee, what gene site told you to eat a low carb diet — couldn’t of been — If there is a site out there that you can upload your raw data and get that info, would be interesting.

  32. My wife and I did 23andMe to prior to having kids just to check for shared carrier genes.

    On that front, our kids would be very safe from any disease.

    But I came out with a hugely increased chance of DVTs. This actually got my doctor to write a note for a sit/stand desk at my work which is awesome.

    With the knowledge I gained from 23andMe it was that much more motivation to adopt primal living.

  33. I’m hoping to get an official diagnosis for a mental disorder then live the rest of my life thriving on a disability pension.

  34. I’m coming in a little late here – I recently purchased a kit and received my results from 23andme and I’m not sorry I did it. As stated, there are lots of holes to be filled, however what it did tell me is very accurate. Much of the health I know about myself. I didn’t learn anything shocking or that I’m dwelling on, and I also know that while I may not be susceptible to certain diseases, it doesn’t mean that I’m free and clear of those diseases should I live my life in a way that would cause a condition to crop up (like, I may not have the Alzheimer’s gene, but that doesn’t mean that I can go around beating myself into concussion after concussion and expect that I won’t get Alzheimer’s). If nothing else, I had hours of entertainment in looking at my results (yeah, I read every little detail…it was relevant – I was taking a genetics class at the time)