5 surprising things your DNA is trying to tell you

Cracking that genetic code.

17 May 2018

First thing's first, what on earth is DNA?

DNA is a unique genetic code that each of us carries in every cell of our bodies, which details everything about you. The colour of your hair and your eyes, the strength of your teeth your height, weight and even your personality – it’s all down to your DNA. Remember those pictures of DNA’s fascinating double helix? That twisted, two stranded ladder-like shape holds the code to your genetic history and the instructions for your life?
Well now, for the first time in human history, you can access those instructions.

Here’s five things your DNA is waiting to tell you...

1. What skincare to use

Are you likely to be one of those people who look decades younger than their biological age? Or very much older (and yet you live a healthy lifestyle and swim in anti-ageing cream)? The answer to what will work for you lies, once again, in your genes. Are you at low, medium or high risk of developing wrinkles? How fast does your collagen and your elastin degrade? Are you genetically predisposed to sun damage and pigmentation? How strong should your sun protection factor be? And how are your antioxidant levels? That fresh glow of youth we all yearn for is determined by their numbers and their success at fighting off the free radicals that age you. Check your genes – and tailor your skincare accordingly.

2. Who your family is

Paternity tests seem to loom large in the lives of many – and now you don’t have to queue for a slot on The Jeremy Kyle Show to solve any doubts you might have. But besides establishing your immediate biological family, a DNA test can reveal fascinating insights into your heritage and far-flung connections. Hey, you might be related to royalty. Bow down.

3. How to stay fit

Have you ever wondered why you seem to be prone to putting on weight while your friends only have to sneeze to shed a few pounds? Don’t worry, you’re not going crazy. It’s down to your DNA. You may have genes that help you to lose weight and keep it off - or your genes might be holding you back. What sorts of fats, carbs and proteins work for your genetic makeup? What minerals, vitamins and nutrients might you be genetically deficient in? What type of foods do you gain weight from? And what form of exercise is best for you? Identify the problems and the solutions that lie in your genes and you’ll feel better far faster.

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4. What foods to eat

Everyone seems to be going gluten-free. But do they need to? Is gluten really the problem? Or could it be something more serious? Coeliac disease is an auto-immune issue that is triggered by gluten intolerance, inflaming your gut and preventing nutrients from being properly absorbed. Around 83% of sufferers haven’t heard of the problem and don’t even know they might have it. But the solution lies in your DNA and coeliac disease can be identified – simply and definitively – simply by sending off a mouth swab. If the results come back negative for coeliac genes results (they will be looking for HLA DQ2 and DQ8 specifically), you are guaranteed to be free of the condition for life. And even if you do carry them, it doesn’t mean you will necessarily ever develop the problem.

The test merely flags a possible weakness that can help prompt preventive lifestyle changes. More useful still is the fact that if you aren’t coeliac, then the symptoms you have been trying to sort by cutting out gluten are probably down to something else entirely and there is very little point in giving up those slices of toast or turning down the daily office doughnut.

5. Your risk of getting ill

This tests your genes for up to 34 different diseases, giving you a percentage chance of your likelihood of developing a range of conditions, including your chances for Lupus, Multiple Sclerosis, Psoriasis, Heart Disease and Aneurysms. Diabetes, Osteoporosis, Rheumatoid Arthritis and Glaucoma are also all on the list, along with many other debilitating conditions. Knowledge is power – and prevention is the best cure, they say, but it’s worth thinking carefully about whether you want to know.

Will the sight of a ‘high percentage’ risk of cancer send you into a tailspin? Or will the relief of knowing that you are ‘low risk’ for some condition that has blighted your family balance any unexpected surprises? As technology develops so do medical and pharmaceutical solutions, and DNA testing may, at the very least, give you the gift of awareness, allowing you to play a significant part in the long-term management of your health.

"", £12.99, by Sara Davenport

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