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

By Gil Blander, PhD, September 8, 2014

 

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 testing method or both methods depends on the kind of health-related information you are looking for, which is why it’s important to arm yourself with the facts.testing

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)

Click here to learn how the InsideTracker blood analysis program can give you the information that you need to optimize your health!

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

Pros and cons of blood analysis and genetic testing

Actionability Blood analysis: Extremely actionable; if there is a low level of vitamin B12 in your blood, you need to consume vitamin B12-rich foods or B12 supplements. Genetic testing: Not actionable; if you have a 50% higher risk of developing dementia in the next 50 years, you may not be able to do anything to prevent it. Viewing your progress Blood biomarkers change over time, responding to food, stress, and other factors, so you can view your progress. For example, if in the baseline blood test you had low vitamin B12 and then started taking a Vitamin B12 supplement, you can evaluate the supplement effect over time via follow-up blood tests. Genetic testing is static, typically with one test in a lifetime. Your genome is stable, that is, it does not change, and it does not respond to your daily status, but rather influences it. So you cannot view progress using this technology. Scientific support for the marker Blood analysis: Because most biomarkers have been studied for several decades, there are hundreds of scientific, peer-reviewed publications showing the relationship between specific biomarkers and specific conditions. Genetic testing: Very little scientific support. There is great variability in testing and analysis. As the first full genome was sequenced in year 2000, there are a limited number of peer-reviewed scientific publications about the relationship between SNPs and specific conditions. User adoption Blood analysis: 7 billion users. Most of us have been tested at least once in our lifetime. Genetic testing: Small fraction of the population. Companies like 23andMe are trying to increase the exposure. Depth Blood analysis: There are thousands of validated blood biomarkers that provide scientific evidence about your state of health or disease. Genetic testing: There are few validated genetic biomarkers (SNP), but there is great potential with an increasing number of scientific publications on genetic markers. Most are related to disease state.

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!

To learn more about maximizing the value of your physician blood tests, check out InsideTracker’s free demo here.

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.

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