Learning their genetic risk of disease doesn't always motivate people to make the healthy changes to their lifestyle that they ought to, the Associated Press reports. Still, it notes that direct-to-consumer genetic testing companies like 23andMe and Helix offer health-risk analyses.
The AP notes that a meta-analysis by Cambridge University researchers of 18 studies of people who received physician-ordered genetic tests found that few changed their behaviors — like exercising, using sunblock use, or quitting smoking — in light of the results. Genetic risk data "has little if any impact on changing routine or habitual behaviors," study author Theresa Marteau tells the AP.
However, that doesn't mean such information never helps anyone — Marteau notes that learning he was at increased genetic risk of type 2 diabetes motivated US National Institutes of Health Director Francis Collins to lose 35 pounds. "It was a kick in the pants," Collins tells the AP.
Still changing behavior is difficult, and Helix cofounder James Lu says it might be easier when genetic information is coupled with education and support.