Here’s How To Tell If A Genetic Testing Service Is Legit
Personalised medicine is making one-size-fits-all treatment feel decidedly outdated. Now that genetic testing is becoming more and more accessible in SA, telling you how your genes react to everything from medication to exercise, some companies are cashing in on your need to know what your future holds. Businesses are diving in, flooding the market with “personalised” gene tests, health supplements, even beauty products and diet plans. In theory, these companies match your genes to their perfect-for-you wares. In reality, most are based on very shaky science. Before you buy, double check with a pro – a doctor or dietician – and ask yourself:
Where’s The Science?
“We live in the part of history of the genetic ‘panel’ – sections of the genome that have lots of research supporting them,” says Dr Heidi van Loggerenberg, co-founder of JOINCIRCLES and a qualified homoeopath, who’ll be at Women’s Health LIVE as part of a panel discussion on DNA. “But as research widens and deepens, more genes will have solid research behind them.” Certain companies do use the same technology as lab scientists, but few at-home genetic testing services have been reviewed by regulatory bodies and most don’t take lifestyle factors into account, says leading genomics specialist Dr Lawrence Brody. So even if your results are accurate, they’re likely incomplete.
How Safe Is It?
“There’s a bit of a grey area with these tests. They’re not diagnostic tests; they’re not regulated at all,” says Danny Meyersfeld, founder of DNAlysis and molecular biologist who’ll also be talking DNA testing at Women’s Health LIVE . But the personnel running the tests have to be qualified and there are two key bodies to look out for: the South African National Accreditation System (SANAS), which accredits medical laboratories and service providers, and the Health Professions Council of South Africa (HPCSA), which registers medical technologists and scientists and anyone with a medical degree. Also, make sure a company’s website is secure and don’t buy anything without assurance that your results won’t be posted online.
Who’s Keeping Tabs?
As with any health practitioner, make sure the professionals are accredited by the Health Professions Council. If possible, find a doctor with an additional university degree in functional medicine. For the interpretation of genetic results, the Clinical Pharmacogenetics Implementation Consortium – phew! – weighs up the evidence and sets out clinical guidelines. If you’re heading to a compounding pharmacy, ask if they’re Good Manufacturing Practice (GMP) compliant. It’s a legal term that denotes whether practices are sticking to good quality standards. Naturopaths, acupuncturists, reflexologists and other alternative practitioners should be registered with the Allied Health Professions Council of SA.
Can I Handle The Results?
Most personalised-product sellers won’t offer to interpret results for you; instead, they may want to sell you “solutions”. Probably not a big deal if you just found out you’re rash-prone or lacking a B vitamin. But if a test reveals something serious, you could end up confused or devastated. “Think about what you’d do with the results before you take the test,” says Brody. Better yet, get tested through your functional practitioner, who’d give you a proper consultation, sans the marketing spiel.
In November 2018, we are launching the first ever Women’s Health Live Festival – a weekend of wellness. It will be held over 10 and 11 November at The Wanderers Sports Club in Johannesburg. Think of it as a Coachella of Wellness: amazing speakers, panel conversations – with more on genetic testing – and interviews led by our editors chatting to our cover stars, fit family, social influencers and experts who will be sharing stories, experiences, expertise and knowledge. Get your tickets here, now!