Epigenetics: To be or not to be


You may have seen the many commercials about 23andMe or Ancestry.com that talk about your genes and learning where you came from.

Is the test worthwhile and what can you do with this information?

With a proliferation of these tests and technology, I want you to better understand what you are getting and what you are giving up in the process.

First, let's look at what the value is. What do you get for your money?

At the most basic levels you are getting more in-depth information about your genes and SNPs in order to understand your genetic risks and strengths.

What is a SNP? "A SNP (pronounced "snip") is short for single nucleotide polymorphism. So far roughly 10 million SNPs have been identified in the human genome, with each of us having over a million.” 

Each SNP identifies slight variations or abnormalities in various genes, but to what extent these affect us is unclear at this time.  Some SNPs are much better understood and researched than others. And the interaction between SNPs is largely unknown. Scientists continue to unravel this as we speak and new discoveries are made all the time.

That being said it doesn't mean we don't know anything.

For instance, the APOE, MTHFR, HLA, COMT, BRCA, etc. all have clear correlations to certain diseases or increase risks.

See the chart below for more information:

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So knowing if you have these SNPs or gene variants can you help you make lifestyle changes or avoid certain pharmaceutical drugs.  There is certainly value in that.

This leads me to my next point, which is your genes are not your destiny.  As the saying goes…

" your genes load the gun while your environment pulls the trigger".

The good news here is that you have some measure of control. The important term here is epigenetics.

Epigenetics: While genetics looks at the expression of the genetic code, epigenetics is the study of the other factors that influence how and when a gene is expressed. ... It is believed that these changes in individual’s health is caused by changes in the expression and/or the action of genes.[1]

Or as Dr. Jeffrey Bland has said “Our health and disease patterns… are not hardwired deterministically by our genes, but rather consequences of the interaction of genetic uniqueness with environmental factors.”[2]

Using epigenetics to turn genes on and off is very powerful. Knowing you can transform your health through diet, exercise, supplements, sleep, stress and reducing environmental toxins put you back in the driver's seat.

So for instance just because you have one or two APOE4 genes, doesn't mean you will definitely get Alzheimer's, especially if you pay attention to your lifestyle factors.  This is why I believe so strongly in what I do. While it may seem too simple that overall lifestyle could be a critical factor, it is true nonetheless.

" The power was always inside of you Dorothy"

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So knowing what some of your genetic predispositions are can help you make more targeted changes and choices.

Be ready:

Excited to find out more about your genes and yourself?  That's great, but just make sure you are prepared mentally for the information you may uncover.

For instance, some people have found out they actually are not related. Oops! That could certainly put anyone into a tailspin.

Or some people find out that they are APOE 4/4.  Which means they are risk for Alzheimer's goes up 50 to 90%. As a support member on the APOE4 website, we get many people in distress after finding out their APOE status.

Consider what it may mean for your family members if you have your genes tested. Using the APOE gene again as an example – if you find you have one APOE4 variant then you know that one of your parents has it.  Your siblings may have it and you may have passed that to your children.  Are you ready for that?

Make sure mentally that you really believe you are in control and not your genes. Prepare to take preventive action once you get the information.


If you have are in the process of doing something like 23andMe, there are a couple of things you should know.

One is that the real information is not in the "cute" report they give you. The real "magic" is in the raw data file that is generated. That is what you really want. To get that go here: Accessing you Raw Data File

To make sense of the raw data file you need to run it through another computer program that can help you decipher it.  Some of those are:  Promethease, Livewello and GeneticGenie.

And the last, but equally important point is to consider your privacy. For instance, 23andMe was purchased by Glaxo Smith-Kline in July 2018.  As their press release stated: “The collaboration will combine 23andMe’s large-scale genetic resources and advanced data science skills, with the scientific and medical knowledge and commercialisation expertise of GSK.[3] 

And Anne Wojcicki, CEO and Co-Founder of 23andMe, said; “This collaboration will enable us to deliver on what many customers have been asking for -- cures or treatments for diseases. By leveraging the genetic and phenotypic information provided by consenting 23andMe customers and combining it with GSK’s incredible expertise and resources in drug discovery, we believe we can more quickly make treating and curing diseases a reality.”[4]

That means your data may be accessed by a pharmaceutical company. While 23andMe has said you can opt out and has put up safeguards is anything really safe? See this Time Article. Also, they may change their privacy policy down the road. Do any of us really read those a policy updates when they send them out?

Once your genetic information is out there, there is no putting the horse back in the barn. It's not like issuing another credit card. 

There are companies out there like Maximized Genetics that don't keep your data. If privacy is a concern, do your homework before you spit in that tube.

What does this all mean?

If you are careful about privacy and are mentally prepared, it can be worthwhile to dig deeper and find out your genetic predispositions.  Making preventive changes is easier than when you are already  ill. Plus, you only have to run the test once as your genes won't change. As more is discovered in this area, you will be able to apply it against the genetic information you already have.

Is more knowledge better or is ignorance bliss?  You decide!

Want help navigating this decision or information you have uncovered then contact me today for Free 15 minute consult and we can see how I can help you.


Disclaimer: By viewing this handout, you understand that Julie Kenney is a FMCHC health coach and the owner of Chameleon Wellness. Our purpose is to educate and empower people over 40 to age without illness.

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[1] https://www.ausmed.com/articles/what-is-epigenetics/

[2] https://observer.com/2018/03/functional-medicine-updates-modern-medicines-approach-to-disease/


[3] https://www.gsk.com/en-gb/media/press-releases/gsk-and-23andme-sign-agreement-to-leverage-genetic-insights-for-the-development-of-novel-medicines/


[4] https://www.gsk.com/en-gb/media/press-releases/gsk-and-23andme-sign-agreement-to-leverage-genetic-insights-for-the-development-of-novel-medicines/


Julie Kenney