Wednesday, November 20, 2013

Genetic Testing, Blood Testing, or Both?

Should I Perform Genetic Testing, Blood Testing, or Both?

By Gil Blander, PhD

"The terms “genetic testing” and “blood testing” are frequently considered complementary, and for good reason. Both tests allow you to understand your health risks based on your internal biological activities, aiding in the prevention and management of certain conditions. Whether you should consider one or both testing method depends on the kind of health-related information you are looking for, which is why it’s important to arm yourself with the facts.

What is genetic testing?

Genetic testing is a type of test that identifies single-nucleotide polymorphisms (SNPs) in your genome. SNPs may predispose individuals or their descendants to certain diseases. Essentially, this type of testing looks for alterations in a person’s genes that might influence the level or structure of important proteins that drive biological activities.

Genetic testing can provide the following information:

  • An individual’s risk of disease (for example, depending on your SNPs, your risk of developing diabetes might be low or high)
  • Drug responsiveness, or whether you are going to respond to treatment by a specific drug
  • Carrier status (you can find out if your children are at risk for inherited conditions, which allows for planning and informed action)
  • Ancestry (where you and your relatives are from and how you are related)

What is blood testing?

Blood testing, or blood analysis, identifies levels of biomarkers, whether they be proteins, nutrients, vitamins, or minerals in the blood that change every day. It is part of the standard of care around the world for many indicators of disease and levels of basic vitamins and minerals, as it is reliable and has been available since the 1930s. Currently, there are thousands of different blood tests commercially available from laboratory services at convenient national locations. Many of those are not relevant to your health, wellness, and performance, but rather to disease; in addition, certain blood tests require a significant amount of blood and can quickly become expensive. Therefore, measuring only the most important biomarkers is generally the best strategy.

Blood analysis can provide the following information:

  • If you are currently sick, what the specific issues are, and how best to treat them
  • Vitamin, nutrient, or mineral deficiencies
  • Food allergies
  • Toxicities in the body

How can I maximize the value of my physician’s blood test results?

During your yearly physical, your physician will perform a basic blood test (which often includes glucose, cholesterol and several other basic biomarkers). A week later you will typically receive a letter saying your levels are “normal,” with no data included. The physician will take the blood results document, put it into a manila folder, and that is it. But, there is a great value in those biomarkers!

  • You can plot them and see progress over time
  • You can determine if your results are optimized
  • You can work on optimizing the out-of-optimal zone markers using natural interventions
  • You can take control of your own health!

What would be the advantage of adding blood analysis to your genetic testing results?

As discussed, genetic testing is a risk assessment tool. It generally provides a probability of you experiencing a disease sometime in your life. The next step is to know if you currently have this condition (via blood test), to intervene, and to track progress (via follow-up blood test) to ensure optimal health.

An example is a person who has a genetic test done by 23andMe and finds that he is at risk for high cholesterol. He still does not know if he currently has high cholesterol. Therefore, he gets a baseline cholesterol blood test and discovers he does in fact have high levels. He changes his diet and exercise using a blood test-based nutrition software such as InsideTracker, and he follows up with a blood test to monitor his progress.

In summary, blood analysis is actionable, dynamic and scientifically well understood. Genetic testing is data-rich, mostly static, experimental, and insightful. They are valuable, complementary methods of health information discovery."

Source: Inside Tracker
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