Advice Column, Health, Parenting

Should you test your child’s DNA?

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  • Category Advice Column, Health, Parenting

To test or not to test…

In countries like Norway and Finland, it is standard practice to test every new born baby for various genetic disorders. Conditions like Cystic Fibrosis, Sickle Cell Anaemia, Duchenne Muscular dystrophy, Tay-Sachs Disease, Phenylketonuria, and Thalassemia which are caused by a single gene mutation and respond well to early treatment which can prevent potentially serious complications or permanent disability. 

In other countries, for example Kuwait, compulsory DNA testing was over-ruled after being challenged in court, in favour of protecting the right to personal liberty and privacy. 

However, few diseases are the result of a single genetic mutation. Instead, multiple genes interact with each other and with environmental factors to influence the child’s risk of illness and the severity of any given disease or condition. This means that it is possible to make changes to the child’s diet and conditions to influence whether or not these conditions will manifest. 

Young African American mother holds baby daughter in garden

Every parent at some stage worries about whether they have passed on a hereditary disease to their child, and the truth is that their susceptibility to those conditions is indicated in many of today’s DNA tests. Nonetheless, this information is not necessarily doom and gloom. The focus of precision medicine, which includes DNA testing is to use this information to avoid these conditions setting in. Prevention is more effective once one knows the risks. 

“Genetic tests can help parents to make informed lifestyle choices for infants and young children. For example, these tests can help identify the likely cause of digestive issues, to avoid further symptoms and promote healthy digestion” says Dr Christa North, nutrigenomics specialist at Genway.  

What lifestyle DNA testing will enable you to know about your child 

  • The risk of nutritional deficiencies can be identified in DNA test results. This way you can work out exactly which nutritional supplements should be given to the child. 
  • The Geneway Genediet test explains which food types are best suited to his / her system and which should be avoided  
  • DNA tests explain a child’s circadian rhythm and give insights regarding their optimal sleep times and needs. 
  • The Geneway Genesport test explains whether one’s body is better positioned for anaerobic (power/ strength)  or aerobic (endurance) sports, as well as how well their body will respond to exercise. This explains their sport potential and will help guide you on how to manage this aspect of their development.   
  • New DNA tests identify the strengths and weaknesses of each person’s immune system and give indications of how these can be addressed for optimal health 
  • The onset of Diabetes in children has increased tremendously in the past decade. Testing the child’s DNA helps explain his / her predisposition for this condition so that parents can structure their diet accordingly, and know the signs to look out for. 

The details are in the DNA 

Here are a few of the genes that are tested by South African  DNA testing company Geneway and what they indicate:

MTHFR – Switching genes on / of. Sometimes your child’s focus is great, other days s/he has major anxiety, complains about headaches or is simply just grumpy. Even autism is a possibility…..
COMT – “laid-back or tense?” The gene that determines whether your child is cheerful and focused or quickly irritated, impatient, has a high pain sensitivity and sleep is a challenge 
DAO – “sensitivity to certain foods” You know your child is allergic to ‘something’ or sometimes you feel like he / she is allergic to ‘everything’, but cannot figure out what?
GSTs – “Detox issues” Chemicals and smells make your child feel sick and they probably will develop grey hair early. In addition, they are more vulnerable to DNA damage.
MAO-A – mood swings & carb cravings This gene helps govern the levels of dopamine and serotonin, brain chemicals that affect mood, aggression, productivity, vulnerability to addictions, self-confidence, sleep and carb cravings!
NOS3 – heart issues Are heart problems on the way? Cold hands and feet can indicate that blood flow and blood vessel formation are affected.
PEMT – liver and brain issues No! Your child is not made to be a vegetarian! In addition, gallbladder problems and muscle pain are common.
APOE – want to play rugby? The ApoE gene promotes repair and growth in brain cells after traumatic injuries such as concussions. Contact sports are not a good idea
HFE – “iron man” Iron deficiency is the most common nutrient deficiency in the world, however, the opposite, an iron overload, can have far more devastating consequences. Too much iron in the body causes liver disease, fatigue, weight loss, abdominal pain and has an effect on normal puberty development.
F2 & F5 – blood clotting issues Blood clotting disorders, heart disease and strokes.  Diseases that start young but are often only diagnosed when too late 

To test or not to test 

The information obtained in DNA tests can be used to dramatically improve a child’s quality of life if this is accompanied by proper medical interpretation and thorough recommendations. You as a parent will be in a position to make more informed choices regarding their health, wellness, sport and diet if you are equipped with detailed information.  

Happy family is having fun at home. Mother and her child girl playing together. Girl in pilot’s costume.

What is important is to ensure that a qualified healthcare provider interprets and presents the results to you. DNA reports are highly detailed, and while some international companies do offer a test and report (without consultation) a professional consultation is highly recommended to ensure that both you the parents and your child gets the full benefit of the test. 

More information is available at https://www.geneway.co.za/ or call (012) 346 2469

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