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Personal DNA testing; the perfect holiday gift?

By Liz Rector

With the holidays approaching, many are on the hunt for unconventional seasonal gifts. One gift that has become increasingly popular is the present of self-discovery. In the last handful of years, personal DNA testing has entered the mainstream, giving people unparalleled access to their genetic makeup.

Nowadays, there are a variety of companies that offer personal genetic testing services such as 23andMe, MyHeritage, LivingDNA, AncestryDNA, National Geographic DNA, Helix and more. In order to get a comprehensive look at your genetic makeup, all you have to do is order a kit from the company of your choosing and provide a saliva sample. Kits typically range from $100 to $299, and with the growing number of people testing their DNA, these companies are gaining a more comprehensive understanding of genealogy and pathology.

“Doing the personal DNA kit confirmed many things that I already knew about my heritage, like the fact that I’m of European descent and have a large portion of Italian in my blood. But it also revealed things that my family and I did not know,” said 80108 resident Ed Berkhout. “Overall, it was easy to do and a great experience.”

It is through the sharing of positive experiences like this one that the popularity of personal genetic testing has skyrocketed.

My Heritage’s website claims that they have 92 million users worldwide and that in addition to helping users discover their ethnic origins, they have also helped millions find family members. 23andMe made Oprah’s list of Favorite Things for 2017 and offers choices of simple ancestry testing, or ancestry and health services, which can inform the user of predispositions to certain diseases such as Parkinson’s disease, celiac disease and more.

There are even tests designed to inform clients about their own bodies for nutrition purposes. Habit, a $299 service, uses both saliva and blood samples to analyze how the user’s body metabolizes carbohydrates, fats and proteins. This test is designed to assist more with nutritional choices rather than focus on ancient genetic origins. However, the usage of DNA to inform daily diet is an even newer concept than the already popular practice of using home DNA kits to find out historical familial origins.

One issue some people have with the idea of personal DNA testing is that their information is kept and may be used. However, the companies that offer these services have strict confidentiality policies and procedures and will only use your information for scientific purposes if you so request or approve it.

Undoubtedly, before embarking on the personal DNA journey, it is important to research which company will best suit your budget and the goals you have in mind. And if you are considering giving this gift for the holidays, most would agree that you may want to make certain that the recipient is open to the idea and has showed interest in ancestral DNA testing.



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