All of us have different levels of concern about our privacy, and genetics is a new space that many are not familiar with. You should be aware that there are potential risks before buying a DNA file, or turning over a DNA file and personal information to a company, even ours - Food Genes and Me. Our company aims to be a model for protecting one’s genetic privacy.
The better good of humanity
In our view, contributing your DNA for research to improve health is somewhat a personal duty. When you take a drug or receive medical care, you benefit from not only the work of scientists and billions of dollars of investment, but the sacrifice of many participants who took a chance on an experimental drug or food therapy. Analysis of genetic and health data can undoubtedly lead to more drugs with more focused targeting, and better health care for all. Why not share your DNA file with trusted organizations for the better good of all? Food Genes and Me CEO, Martin Schiller has written more on this subject in an article in The Conversation.
Laws that protect you
Current laws that provide some protections for genetic privacy are the Genetic Information Nondiscrimination Act, Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act, and Affordable Care Act, although they are not designed for this purpose. In 1996 the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA) was passed. This law prevents distribution of your medical information without your written approval, and covers past and present medical care. The Genetic Information Nondiscrimination Act (GINA) passed in 2008 prevents discrimination based on genetic information covering health insurance and employment decisions (note, however, that life insurance is not included here). Genetic testing cannot be a requirement. The Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (PPACA) passed in 2010 prohibits health insurers from discriminating against patients with genetic diseases by refusing coverage because of pre-existing conditions. Insurers may only vary premiums based on a few specified factors such as age or geographic area.
Gaps in protection
The laws covering genetic privacy are indeed likely not broad enough. You do have some protection, so let’s discuss the gaps where you are vulnerable. Under existing law there are potential holes with no protections for:
Furthermore, just because there is a law, not everyone follows it. Moreover, enforcement as always is an issue, and the legal system is just starting to see cases regarding genetic privacy.
DNA is also considered the new “fingerprint”. The FBI investigates crime with the national DNA database known as the Combined DNA Indexing System ("CODIS"), and a serial killer was recently caught in Sacramento, CA based on consumer DNA files.
The government will have to revise the laws and improve protection over time as the genetics sector develops over the next decade.
Another reason for concern is that, if someone wants your DNA, they can physically get it! How can they get it? The answer is “Touch DNA”.
Touch DNA. When you or a biofluid from your body touches an object, you leave behind hundreds of cells. These cells, of course, carry your DNA. Each object has a library of touch DNA from people who touched it, and DNA can last for years. Think about where you have left your DNA today: your bedding, your bedroom floor, your door knobs, toilet drain, toilet, cup, toothbrush, hairbrush, eyeglasses, clothing, etc. And, you have not even left your bedroom area yet. You get the point, and this does not even consider the public domain after you leave your house. When your DNA is discarded on any items in your trash, goes down the drain, or is left in a public place like a car door handle, your privacy is in jeopordy. Even if someone does not know you and you have touched an object, and swipes it, your DNA can be matched to DNA databases such as 23andMe, Ancestry, GEDMatch, or the FBI’s CODIS and help identify you through close-relative matches. This investigation strategy hit the news this year to catch a serial killer, closing a cold case. Thus, keep in mind that DNA could be used to compromise your privacy. Even if there are not a lot of laws to protect us, we can do things to protect ourselves, such as working with companies that will not re-sell your DNA and being armed with the above knowledge on touch DNA.
Shared privacy of your relatives
Your DNA codes the information inherited from your parents, their parents, and so forth. You actually share half your DNA with your parents, siblings, and children. Even a third cousin, twice removed has 8000 genetic variants in common! The Lazarus tool on GedMatch, a site for investigating your ancestry, can examine the DNA of close relatives to fairly accurately infer all or part of the DNA of a deceased or other relative! A recent Research study demonstrates that you and your relatives can likely be identified from your DNA, thus showing another route, which could be used to compromise your privacy.
The decisions you make may impact the privacy of others, and vice-versa! This is true even for a distant relative. Let me give you an scary example. You don’t examine your DNA, but your grandfather and daughter do. Grandpa is found to have a variant that puts him at a high risk for Alzheimer’s disease. A long term care insurer gets this information (from touch DNA) and denies an insurance application to cover your child for long-term care. To my knowledge, a case like this has not reached trial yet, but this may be legal under current law.
In summary, while this may all seem a bit sobering and really puts a huge new twist on current privacy law. But, as with most things, knowledge is power. I hope this and future blogs continue to educate you to be a more sophisticated consumer in this new field of self-improvement.
Modern humans have existed for 6,000 generations, and we inherit traits, behaviors, and health vulnerabilities from our parents through DNA. Each person has 5-10 million variations in their DNA sequence. Yes, that is a lot of variation, but explains why you do not look like, act like, or have the same diet issues as your neighbors.
As we age, our bodies begin to fail in different ways, in part based on the DNA sequence variations we inherit, but also upon our exposure to environmental conditions, i.e. possibly the food we eat each day. Unfortunately, it is a very rare situation where there is certainty in what failure you will get. Again, this is partially because each person has a unique genetic makeup and a unique exposure to the environment.
To address this, scientists study large populations and determine what percentage of people has a specific condition. From these measurements, they can estimate the risk of seeing a particular condition, i.e. a genetic risk score. This is somewhat like your chances of rolling double sixes with a pair of dice – there are 36 possible combinations and double sixes is just one possible roll. Therefore, you have a 1 in 36 chance of rolling double sixes. Likewise, most human conditions have risks between 1 in 100 and 1 in 250,000. You may be thinking that 1 in 100 risk is a low risk, and “it’s not going to be me!” Well, but returning to dice as an example, let’s suppose you played some game and rolled the dice 108 times. Then on average, each set of 108 rolls would produce 3 rolls of double sixes! The same thing goes on with disease risk. Because there are so many different types of disease, each with their own risk, collectively you have a higher chance of contracting a disease. This is why the personalized dietary from advice is so powerful for living a healthy life.
Although we cannot be certain, one of the best predictors is your family history. This is the inherited risk. The other main risk for disease is environment, which includes your exposure to toxins, sunlight, radiation, chemicals, stress, physical injury, parasites, bacteria, viruses, and predators. Perhaps the most important environmental exposures that affect your risk is the type of food you eat every day.
Since most people eat frequently, it’s no surprise that the food you consume directly effects your health. But, you may not have known that interaction of your genes with your diet can radically change your risk for specific diseases and conditions. This field of research is known as nutrigenetics or nutrigenomics.
In your FGAM nutrigenetics report, we analyze your genetic file for several hundred DNA sequence variations. On average each person has a different set of 10-20 of the sequence variations from hundreds that are possible. Each of these variations are indicators of an increased risk for a condition and a food or supplement intervention that reduces the risk. FGAM was very careful to select only the DNA variants that have a strong basis based upon rigorous statistical tests in a scientific study. We next use this information to give you a list of five foods and portion that should be eaten daily and could reduce the inherited risk. Every time you come to the FGAM site, we may often provide you additional foods, so keep visiting your FGAM account.
To keep building our accuracy in genetic risk scoring, FGAM asks that you to donate your genetic information and complete a 5-10 min survey to advance FGAM research to discover new variants. You will benefit from your donation; by FGAM improving your personalized dietary advice. With your data we perform a genome wide association study (GWAS) for each survey question you answer. To perform these studies we do need 1,000s of participants and that is why we are asking you to be a team member. See our privacy agreement on how we take extra steps to secure your data and will only use it for FGAM research.
Submit candidate survey questions on FGAM’s contact us webpage as you would like, so we can further understand your interest, and together can investigate new DNA sequence variations of your interest.
In summary, FGAM is different from other genetics companies in several key areas:
1. FGAM focuses only on personalized foods and supplements based on your genetics.
2. FGAM only uses scientific studies with a strong scientific foundation and passes rigorous statistical tests.
3. FGAM is actively discovering new DNA sequences, and with your help will later not just be dependent on third-party published scientific studies.
4. FGAM believes it provides you the important information from genetic research because you eat every day; we do not provide information that has little impact on your life.
For more information or clarity of some of these descriptions, please also watch our YouTube videos: https://foodgenesandme.com/watch-videos.
The study of the interaction of dietary and genetic factors and its effect on metabolism, health status, and risk of disease. Nutrigenetics aims to identify how genetic variation affects response to nutrients. This knowledge can be applied to optimize health, and prevent or treat diseases. The ultimate aim of nutrigenetics is to offer people personalized nutrition based on their genetic makeup.
The genetic differences both within and among human populations. There may be multiple variants of any given gene in the human population.
Genetic risk refers your chance of inheriting a disorder, disease, or other trait. For human health, disorders, or other traits it would be great if we could definitively say yes or no, but this is not the case. Therefore, we assign a risk instead that is based on scientific studies. The risk is like rolling a dice. You have a 1 in 6 chance of rolling a 2. So, if 2 is some disease, on average 1 out of 6 people would get it.
Food Genes and Me™ is reporting personalized dietary advice, which is a report containing suggestions about foods, nutrients, and portion sizes that you should eat. This advice is based on your DNA sequence and solid scientific studies that link specific genetic variants with risks of disease or other outcomes.
FGAM diets are generated by scanning your uploaded genetic file for variants that affect a gene diet interaction outcome and meet rigorous statistical scientific metrics. Once a variant is identified we search a nutrient database to identify foods and portions that should be eaten daily to increase the risk of a favorable outcome.
Every day, your conscious choices in food selection will have been supported by studies that you’re your personal genes to food metabolism and other risks. No other genetic information affects people as directly as this, in their daily lives. Some of the information may be helpful in speaking with your healthcare provider, as well.
We expect that when your DNA sequence file is uploaded, it will take less than 24 hours to return your report to you, and usually within an hour.
Your information will only be used by Food Genes And Me for the discovery of new variants that can be used to improve you personalized dietary advice. We perform Genome Wide Association Studies to identify these variants.
Yes. Your survey information is not connected with a customer number, not your name, and once loaded it is removed from servers connected to the Internet. Likewise, once your genetic file is uploaded and processed, it is removed from servers connected to the Internet. The scientific research to discover variants is performed on computers not connected to the Internet.
Food Genes and Me will process a .vcf file and raw DNA files (note: NOT zip files) from the following:
After your login follow instructions here https://www.23andme.com/you/download
After your login follow instructions here https://dna-explained.com/2013/03/21/downloading-ancestrys-autosomal-dna-raw-data-file/
DNA Family Tree
After your login follow instructions here https://www.familytreedna.com/learn/user-guide/family-finder-myftdna/download-raw-data-page/
On the contact us page, please indicate your interest in an email or send us a letter.
We are actively seeking B2B partners to sell food, nutrients, supplements, and meals suggested by research studies used in our Food Genes And Me reports.