Your top DNA questions answered

Lisa Raleigh DNA testing

So, you’ve heard me talking about the benefits of having a DNA test, but you might be wondering where to be tested, why some DNA tests are more expensive than others, and why you should opt for a more personalised experience.

Since I’ve recently qualified as a DNAlysis accredited healthcare practitioner, I sat down with the DNAlysis team to answer some of your most pressing questions right here…

ALSO SEE: 8 reasons why you should have a DNA test

Why do I need to see a healthcare practitioner when I can get my DNA tested?

Some DNA testing companies offer “direct to consumer” tests, where you simply have your DNA tested, complete a questionnaire online and get your report back – which you then analyse yourself.

While this may be quicker or cheaper, the truth is, your DNA results only reveal half the story about your health status or risk for disease. The rest is down to your lifestyle choices, your habits and your medical history including your blood pressure, cholesterol and insulin levels– which is why established, credible genetic testing companies like DNAlysis offer a more personalised approach.

Working with a trained healthcare professional allows you to have a better understanding of your unique DNA, as well as what steps you should take to improve your health.

For example, I’ve seen a few clients recently who feel they’re doing everything right, ie. they’re eating well, exercising regularly, getting the recommended amount of sleep and taking plenty of supplements, yet they’re still not seeing the results they want.

I discovered that one of my clients was over exercising and undereating. As a result, she was losing muscle mass and putting her body into a semi-starvation mode, which slowed her metabolism right down. This hampered her weight loss and fitness goals, even though she was convinced she was on the right track.

It was only after getting to know her better and taking note of her daily habits and personality traits that I saw where she was going wrong. And, although her DNA results told some of the story, I needed to understand the person behind the report.

“Direct to consumer” or online tests skip this vital step and it undermines the science of nutrigenomics (which looks at the interaction of nutrition and genes, especially with regards to preventing and treating disease).  As a practitioner sitting with a patient, there’s a lot of information you’ll have that a DNA test by itself can’t provide.

A personalised approach is key

Sasha Maggs, who is part of the DNAlysis team and has her MSc Med in Human Genetics agrees with me and believes that a person’s medical history, together with their current lifestyle and DNA results are all essential puzzle pieces needed to give the full “health” picture as it puts genetics into perspective.

“it’s also important to have regular discussions with your healthcare practitioner because your daily habits and lifestyle choices might change regularly, which means that your plan of action for optimal wellness will need to be adjusted too. For instance, an athlete might eat and exercise very differently off season to how they eat in peak season, which is why eating plans and exercise regimes need to constantly be assessed and tweaked,” she adds. There’s no “One Size Fits All” approach anymore!

Some companies claim to analyse over 1000 gene variations at a time. Why does DNAlysis test fewer gene variations?

When it comes to the right gene variations to test, DNAlysis has very strict inclusion criteria and only includes those variations that have been scientifically tested. They are also focused primarily on “functional variants” meaning those genetic variations that have a direct affect on the biochemical pathway in which they are found.

“There has to be enough evidence in the literature linking a genetic variation to the risk for injury, or risk for disease or link to carbohydrates, whatever it may be,” says Sasha.

“And because we want to empower practitioners to help their patients prevent disease and improve their health, the gene variations we test also need to show us what we can do to help. For example, in DNA Health, we test for 36 gene variants that tell us more about risk factors for disease such as bone health risk for osteoporosis, or insulin sensitivity and risk for diabetes.

And in DNA Diet we test for gene variations linked to how a person stores fats and carbohydrates, their eating behaviours, as well as how genes affect metabolism – so that we can customise an eating and exercise regime specific to that person. There’s no point testing for hundreds of gene variations that tell us nothing,” she adds.

Founder of DNAlysis, Dr Daniel Meyersfeld and I have chatted about this before and he says, “The DNAlysis philosophy is to focus more on the interventions that can be made as a result of the tests we do to ensure practical and relevant advice for every person; and less on the number of gene variations (SNPs )that are being analysed.”

Are DNAlysis tests more expensive than other DNA tests out there?

The DNAlysis cost per test is pretty “like for like” with other brands and in some cases it’s actually less expensive. DNAlysis also has special deals such as the Comprehensive package which costs around R5 885 and includes;

  • DNA Diet
  • DNA Health
  • DNA Skin
  • DNA Sport
  • DNA Mind - which isn’t offered anywhere else in South Africa and is a first on the market.
  • DNA Oestrogen

Plus, the comprehensive package also includes Medcheck, which is the pharmacogenomics tests that look at how you respond to specific medications such as pain medication, anti-depressants and certain statins, Beta Blockers, anti-coagulants and more.

ALSO SEE: how the perfect diet for you is all down to genetics

What makes the DNAlysis laboratory so special?

DNAlysis has been in the market for 11 years and was one of the first genetic testing laboratories in SA. The company has also been recognised as a global leader in the field of biotechnology with an established practitioner following in Scandinavia, Europe, Far East, Middle East and the USA. DNAlysis has also just opened another laboratory in Finland.

“There’s a perception out there that overseas laboratories are better, when in fact many doctors from around the world are sending their patients DNA tests here, to the DNAlysis laboratory,” says Sasha. Well-known American functional medicine practitioner, physician and author, Mark Hyman uses DNAlysis tests to help his patients achieve optimum wellness.

The DNAlysis laboratory is a cut above the rest because:

  1. The team strongly adheres to scientific principles with all their testing
  2. They have very strict protocols
  3. The lab is ISO accredited and has strict quality procedures
  4. The lab follows strict privacy policies and will protect your personal information at all costs.
  5. The company is constantly innovating and is at the forefront of research and technology. The lab just recently purchased a new gene machine called the Gene Titan, which makes them the only commercial lab in SA to own this machine.

The bottom line…

When it comes to understanding the specific role your genes play in your overall health and wellbeing, it’s important to work with a qualified healthcare practitioner who can work with you to create a customised action plan based on your unique results. You should not have to analyse your results on your own.

What I love about DNAlysis is that the team is passionate about making seemingly technical information easy to understand and work with. Their reports, for instance, are highly sought after – as they’re easy to read. A lot of the technical jargon is broken down and explained fully, so there are no grey areas. In my opinion, there’s no better company to help you take charge of your health.  

If you’d like to find out more about the DNA tests I’ve personally had, watch my interview with Dr Daniel Meyersfeld and read my blog here

You can also find out more, by visiting their website here