My husband and I adopted a shelter dog two years ago and were interested in what breeds were in her pedigree. She looked very much like a long haired dachshund but has the calm disposition of a golden retriever. So when we saw a magazine ad for inexpensive (around $60) home testing of your dog's DNA to tell what breeds were in its makeup, we jumped at the chance. Looking back at it now, we should have done our homework about these companies. When the DNA results came back, they she was is 35%-75% poodle! (Our vet has very little doubt but that she is primarily dachshund and concurs that the probability of her having much poodle in her is highly unlikely.)

We eventually got our money back and our experience makes for an amusing story in conversation. When it comes to human health and DNA profiling, however, the consequences could be much more serious.

Some websites offer human genetic tests; simply submit a DNA sample on a cheek swab or by splitting into a tube and, for a fee, receive information about traits influenced by genetics. The tests are either for mutations of well studied single genes or "associations" of genome patterns linked to certain illnesses or susceptibilities.

DNA tests may detect benign traits such as ear wax consistency or ability to taste bitter substances. For health matters, however, consumers are often left to make decisions based on partial or inappropriate information.

Passage of the Genetic Information Nondiscrimination Act in 2008, which prevents employers and insurers from using results of genetic tests to deny opportunities, may encourage people to have their own DNA probed.

A study from 2006, however, provided information about DNA testing companies that offer nutritional supplements supposedly matched to personal genetic profiles. After the media spread the word of these services, the US government's General Accounting Office researched the tests. Investigators sent to four "nutrigenetics" companies two DNA samples-one from a nine-month old female and the other from a fortyeight year old man. But the samples were sent along with different invented lifestyle dietary profiles, creating "fictitious consumers."

The disorders with elevated risks found for the fictitious people were exactly the same: osteoporosis, hypertension, type 2 diabetes, and heart disease. One company offered the appropriate multivitamin supplements for $1,2000, which the investigation found to be worth about $35.

Recommendations tended to state the obvious, such as advising a smoker to quit and the advice tracked with the fictional lifestyle/diet information -- not the genetics.

The study concluded that although these recommendations may be beneficial to consumers in that they constitute common sense health and dietary guidance, DNA analysis is not needed to generate this advice. Some of the suggestions could even be dangerous, such as recommending vitamin excesses in people with certain medical conditions.

To learn more about this specific government study, visit

Whether you want to know the pedigree of your pooch or are looking to improve your health through DNA analysis, do your homework and thoroughly vet the company before spending money and possibly getting treatments you do not need.

Author's Bio: 

Rodney Allen Cole is a freelance writer, focusing on health topics. His online contributions range from the serious, such as pain managment through music therapy to lighter topics like how to cure hiccups.