Did you know that there is no one else just like you? Seriously! We all literally have our own blueprint that makes up who we are inside and out, from the color of our eyes to the number of hairs (or lack of hairs) on our heads. It can map out where we came from and how our bodies might work at their best or even not so much.  What is this blueprint called? DNA.

Dictionary.com defines DNA as,” Genetics. deoxyribonucleic acid: an extremely long macromolecule that is the main component of chromosomes and is the material that transfers genetic characteristics in all life forms, constructed of two nucleotide strands coiled around each other in a ladder like arrangement with the side pieces composed of alternating phosphate and deoxyribose units and the rungs composed of the purine and pyrimidine bases adenine, guanine, cytosine, and thymine: the genetic information of DNA is encoded in the sequence of the bases and is transcribed as the strands unwind and replicate. Compare base pair, gene, genetic code, RNA.” Which is basically a lot of science talk for each person has their very own genetic makeup.

Yet, even though we have our own DNA we are now fascinated as a society in finding out more about our own DNA and with those whom we share. From test kits you can do at home to having professional testing, many people worldwide are interested in learning about these little chains that can tell us more about who we are. From just a small vial of saliva you can find out if you are more likely to drink more caffeine, need more sleep or even where in the world your ancestry leads back to – pretty cool huh? Which for some people seems neither here nor there but for those who might be adopted or have deceased parents and want to learn more about their lineage and health history, it can be a great tool. But just how accurate are these tests?

Tufts University did a study and expert, Sheldon Krimsky says,” We don’t really know, because the companies selling these services—and there are close to 40 of them—don’t share their data, their methods are not validated by an independent group of scientists and there are not agreed-upon standards of accuracy. People have sent their DNA to several of these companies and found differences in the results—though not necessarily radical differences. So you have to look at the percentages you receive back with skepticism.” Therefor we can conclude that some of what you get back may be viable where as some may not be. Either way, you are surely to see some things you might not have expected.

What are some of the perks to learning your DNA? Well there are some tests that can link you to family members and ancestry information that you might not otherwise come across. Many people have noted as being linked up with cousins and other relatives they never even knew existed. When it comes to the ones that also test for health markers and traits, although they can also come back with false reads, it can help you open up discussions with your health care provider.  Say your test comes back saying you are more likely to develop Parkinson’s disease. You may want to start that conversation with your provider now. In fact, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration has approved 23andMe’s personal genetic test for some diseases such as; Alzheimer’s, Parkinson’s and celiac diseases.

At the end of the day whether you know exactly where you are from or if you might be more likely to need more sleep, there are many things a DNA tests can never tell you. They can’t tell you your self-worth which is more priceless than any test! It can’t measure the quality of your relationships which give more to our lives than knowing our exact heritage. They also can’t change who you are as an important member of our society and community. What lies beneath DNA is that every single person has the opportunity to live their own life, make their own choices and be part of an ever changing and always evolving world.

Maybe you don’t know where your red hair comes from or maybe you do, but does that really matter? Not as much as you do, yes you! April 25th is National DNA Day and sure it’s a great time to think about how we are all different, but we all know it’s the quality choices that we make every day that make up who we are and who we want to be. So remember, just like your DNA tells you, you are unique! You are special, and it’s a fact! There is no one just like you!

Mary Hoadley – Director of The Wellness Center