We often hear this question during the one-on-one complimentary consultations between our clients and our nutrition counselors and thought it would be a good idea to discuss the answer publicly.
Reconciling Conflicting Information
Many genetic reports rely on the collection of data from multiple sites, which have been shown to correlate with particular traits. These sites are commonly called Single Nucleotide Polymorphisms (SNPs) – a specific point where DNA differs between individuals. All genetic reports combine SNPs and their effects to tell clients about their own unique genetics.
Let’s examine two examples of conflicting information:
1. One SNP is associated with an increased likelihood of soft-tissue injury, while a second SNP, located in a different gene, is associated with a lower likelihood.
When two SNPs in two separate genes offer conflicting outcomes, it may be tempting to suggest that the result is somewhere in the middle, but this is not often the case. Not all variants produce equally profound effects in the individual. In this case, it’s important to examine the information underlying the effect.
One of the ways AGS-Health has approached these contradictions is through algorithm-based methods of interpreting SNP effects. For example, AGS' Health & Wellness Genetic report includes the “Health Awareness and Effort Score”. This number is directly related to the section of the report entitled 'Genetic Weight, BMI, and Overall Wellness', which examines 20 SNPs with many variants and assigns an effect-score to each of them based on clinical studies. The Health Awareness and Effort Score summarizes these findings from the different SNPs into an easy to interpret format. The final result is a number on a scale from 1 to 10 that accounts for all relevant variants in the test. This algorithm is tested and adjusted to maximize predictive power.
Let’s look at a second case:
2. Two SNP variants with contradictory effects are located in the same gene.
This scenario raises a trickier question -- how do we resolve conflicting information from the same gene? The truth of the matter is that the scientific community is still working on this contradiction.
The issue is that two changes in a gene, depending on what they are, may interact with one another. The combination of a better and worse variant may compensate for one another, may interact to create a more harmful effect, or they may even result in a slightly better outcome. These differences depend on the biochemistry and physics of what the gene produces. Because of this, we include more than one SNP that addresses the topic. We can draw more accurate conclusions from multiple pieces of information.
The scientific community is working to develop tools to address this challenge. For example, one laboratory at Virginia Tech is creating computer models, which predict the interaction of SNP variations in a single gene.
At AGS-Health, we are always working on improving our algorithms and tools. This is also why we offer a complimentary consultation with a nutrition counselor. Reviewing your results with an expert helps personalize the experience and make better sense of the data our report provides.
Despite the complexities, our goal is simple – to make genomics personal.