Doctor David Segal says he has an increased risk for heart disease.
He says he learned that three months ago, but not from his physician or some million-dollar machine. Instead, he claims he got the diagnosis from a test he ordered online from a company called 23andMe.
The drill of having your DNA analyzed by 23andMe goes something like this: you order the test off the website and when it arrives, you produce the DNA sample, a vial of spit, and then mail it back. In about a month, the genetic analysis will be emailed back to you.
“I think one of the greatest values about 23andMe, and I really admire them for this, is they’re taking the genetics out of the clinics, out of the classroom and they’re bringing it to people,” Segal said. “They’re giving them their genetic information and they’re making them think about it.”
23andMe claims what you’ll get with the test is an estimated lifetime risk for a wide-range of diseases including bipolar disorder, coronary heart disease, type-two diabetes, kidney cancer, asthma, alzheimer’s and parkinson’s.
But here’s where the conversation gets blurry.
A lot of people in the research and medical community or skeptical about this company that is trying to sell a product, yet they might run a risk of alarming some people that would then take some action that maybe wasn’t necessary,” Segal said.
The Food & Drug Administration agrees. Monday, they ordered 23andMe to halt sales of its product, saying it’s failed to show that this technology is supported by science.
Doctor Bart Weimer, a genomics professor at UC Davis, says the test simply offers a more common sense approach to managing your health.
“I don’t think we know quite enough about how to manage what the genetics say to manage all of our health today,” Weimer said. “But then there is a certain aspect that we all know we can live better, eat better, exercise more, sleep more.”
Amy Henderson and Mark Demsky contributed to this report.