What is it: 23andMe is a genetic testing service that analyzes your saliva to create multiple reports about your ancestry, health and more — and explains what your DNA says about you. There are two options: the ancestry service ($99) and the health and ancestry service ($199). I decided to go with the health and ancestry service because I was curious about my predisposition to certain diseases.
Who Tried it: Char Adams, PEOPLE writer and reporter
Level of Difficulty: -2 (on a scale of 1 to 10)! All that was required was to submit a sample of my saliva via mail to the lab. I did have to register with the 23andMe website — giving my name and basic information and verifying my email address — but that was super easy. Next, I simply waited six to eight weeks until my results were ready.
About the Process: The toughest part about the entire process was waiting for my results. After I shipped out my saliva sample, the nerves set in and I found myself often wondering what I’d learn. After analyzing my sample, the service presented all of my information to me in the form of 78 reports! That’s a lot of information. Below are results from just four of the reports — my favorites: ancestry, traits, health and wellness.
Ancestry: Like many, I’ve always been somewhat curious about my ancestry, from where my ancestors originated and with whom they mingled. As an African-American woman, I’ve always assumed my DNA would trace back to Africa. And I was right — for the most part. According to my 23andMe report, I am 84.5 percent sub-Saharan African, 13.6 percent European, 1 percent East Asian and Native American, and .2 percent South Asian while .7 percent went “unassigned.”
A closer look at these results showed that I am primarily West African and my European roots can be traced back to Britain and Ireland. Along with my basic ancestry, the service determined that more than 1,200 people worldwide have identical segments of DNA — whether large or small amounts — passed down to us from a shared ancestor.
Traits: This report was very interesting! The service used my sample to determine how my DNA influences my physical appearance, preferences and physical responses. Most of my results prompted a-ha moments, while others left me scratching my head. Based on my DNA, I am most likely to have dark hair and eyes, which is true. However, my results also indicated that I’d likely have a lot of freckles and prefer salty food over sweet. But although I’d love to have freckles, I have none. And anyone who knows me knows that I eat ice cream and other sweets more than any other food🍦🍨🍪🍭 Of course, I went into this process knowing that the test would present my predispositions based on my DNA. Still, this information is helpful because it lets me know that, should I have children one day, I shouldn’t be surprised if he or she has a lot of freckles!
I am also predisposed to have straight or wavy hair. My hair is obviously filled with coils, but this information explains why my curl pattern tends to be loose and my hair is pretty fine. I’ve always wondered why my hair is such a light texture.
Wellness: My wellness report gave so much clarity about my body, sleeping habits and tendencies. It revealed that I am predisposed to weigh about 3 percent more than the average person my age (24) and height (5’11). Full disclosure here, I’ve always struggled to lose weight in my adult years. I’ve always wondered why it seemed so easy for everyone to drop a few pounds while I ate healthy and exercised regularly with little progress. With all that said, this makes so much sense now!
“This predisposition doesn’t mean you will definitely weight more than average,” the report read. “Keep in mind that your lifestyle and environment have a big impact on your weight.”
As for my muscle composition, the report stated that I have the same genetic variant as elite power athletes. Although I’ve never been outstanding at sports, I apparently do have a small amount of natural talent. This info also explains my athletic build.
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Another thing I found interesting is that I am unlikely to flush after drinking alcohol, according to the report. This means that you probably won’t find me red in the face or experiencing symptoms like headaches and nausea after one alcoholic drink. I do not drink often, but when I do, I rarely ever experience these symptoms. With that said — 🍷🍷🍷.
Health: This section told me about genetic variants that could increase my risk of developing certain heath conditions. Much to my relief, the test detected no genetic variant for nearly 50 conditions! As I scrolled down the lengthy list of conditions — only some of which I’d heard — I couldn’t help but hold my breath.
Among the illnesses for which no genetic variant was detected were Alzheimer’s Disease, Parkinson’s Disease, Cystic Fibrosis and Sickle Cell Anemia. However, this doesn’t mean I am absolutely not at risk of these conditions; it means that many genetic variants tested for the illnesses came up negative. And I’m not complaining about that!
The Verdict: I left the 23andMe website with so much information! I was eager to use the tips given based on my DNA to make a bunch of health and lifestyle changes, like limiting red meat and avoiding fast food. Along with giving me results, the service suggested healthy habits that work best with my genetic makeup. These included eating a lot of leafy greens and fish. I shared the information with my friends and family and couldn’t stop talking about the report for days. It’s so great to learn new things about myself and use that information in a positive and proactive way.