Many of the DNA testing kits you can use at home claim that they can help you train better, but that’s not always true. There is no doubt that some of these tests can provide you with helpful and reasonably accurate information. A kit from the industry giant 23andMe is even approved by the FDA to test for ten diseases that have distinct genetic risks. However, information related to personal fitness and athletic levels offered by these tests is very limited. You need to understand how they work to see exactly how they can benefit your workouts.
How Do Direct-to-Consumer DNA Tests Work?
The most important thing you need to understand about genetic testing in general is that it’s an extremely complex matter. Even professional tests conducted in highly specialized labs using the best equipment that exists today might not be 100% accurate. The problem here is that the human genome is extremely complex in itself. And scientists have only just begun to understand small parts of it. Therefore, DNA tests are a murky area on the best of days, and direct-to-consumer DNA testing kits are a very limited variation of genetic testing.
You should also know that even these limited tests differ in types. The ones available on the market test three parts of your genetic code. And it’s imperative that you understand the differences in autosomal DNA vs mtDNA vs Y-chromosome DNA to even decide what kind of test you need. Those tests study your autosomal chromosomes, mitochondria, and Y chromosome respectively.
22 out of 23 chromosomes in the human genetic code are autosomal. This means that this type of test can give some insight into the “general” information about your DNA. Mitochondria are organelles that store information about your mother’s line. Y chromosomes are passed down from fathers, so it will provide some information about genetic traits from his ancestors.
Taking a direct-to-consumer DNA test is very easy. You can buy it online, swab your cheek, send the sample to the company, and receive your results in a few weeks. The company will run its tests, but it won’t be decrypting your personal DNA directly. Instead, it will run a massive search of its DNA database to identify matches for some parts of your code. This means that the accuracy of results is largely determined by the size and versatility of the database.
How Accurate Are the Results from Home DNA Testing Kits?
The search for matches that the company runs is keyed to look for specific genetic markers of known health conditions. For some diseases, having this kind of match is rather concrete evidence that you need to start treatment. However, in many cases, being a carrier of some marker isn’t enough to actually develop the disease.
It’s imperative to understand that DNA testing can only provide accurate information for highly specific genetic traits that the test is directly looking for.
Can DNA Testing Kits Help You Train Better?
Considering all the information presented above, it’s obvious that direct-to-consumer DNA testing kits cannot provide information relevant to your training. Even if they have some substance behind their claims, there isn’t enough research in this area. This means that there isn’t enough scientific evidence to prove that being a carrier of a specific gene means that you will be better at cardio.
And yet, this doesn’t stop companies from making promises. Genetic testing results offered by them are extremely versatile, but also very inaccurate, according to experts. So, taking this test to learn how to train better is a waste of time and money. You will do better to spend that money on a consultation with a personal trainer or a nutritionist.
Sadly, this industry is poorly regulated, so companies making empty promises can’t be really punished. And many people don’t bother reading the huge disclaimers that test providers always have. Those explicitly state that you can’t really rely on the accuracy of the information provided by the test.
It’s because of this that DNA testing companies are able to make money despite the fact that they offer little value. But they will continue with the misinformation, so you need to stay alert.
You also need to know about the risks of direct-to-consumer DNA testing. It doesn’t harm your health (unless you choose to follow some insane advice provided by the test) but it’s a huge privacy risk. Pentagon has issued a warning about this risk, and you should keep it in mind.
When taking this DNA test, you are literally giving your genetic material and information to the testing company. All these companies sell this data to third parties. Even if your name is removed from the records, it’s still possible to determine your identity from the files.
Moreover, DNA testing companies’ databases have been hacked repeatedly with information stolen from millions of accounts. This means that millions of people’s privacy has already been breached in the most awful way.
There is no saying what exactly someone might do with this kind of your personal data. And if you don’t want to find out, avoiding this type of testing will be best. It won’t help you improve your training regimen anyway and the risks make those kits dangerous.
That said, if you do have some concerns about your health, taking this test might be a good option. But that’s only if it’s explicitly approved to test for the specific condition you are worried about.
Even then, if the result is positive, you will have to check again taking more tests assigned by your doctor. Therefore, it might be best to go straight to your healthcare provider from the start.