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'Lifestyle Zone'

Companies have popped up that offer genetic testing aimed at telling customers anything from their ancestry to their telomere length to their risk of developing diseases like Alzheimer's. The Guardian's Barbara Ellen offered up some spit and blood to be tested by Thriva, Titanovo, and 23andMe to see if the tests were worth their while.

She writes that Thriva's blood test, which is supposed to be repeated, only indicated that she had slightly elevated iron levels, while Titanovo, which, at the time, measured telomere length, estimated that Ellen's biological age was some 10 years older than her actual age. Titanovo later told her that it stopped its telomere test as it was inconsistent and is instead focusing on health and fitness.

Ellen adds that the information from her 23andMe test mostly "seems harmless and fun," as she learned the percentage of Neanderthal variants she has and that her ancestry was 99.1 percent northwestern European. However, she does add that she learned that she has a variant that increases her risk of late-onset Alzheimer's disease.

She notes that the tests all carried disclaimers, caveats, and admonishments to speak with your doctor if concerned.

Ellen says that genetic-testing kits like the ones she tried could "end up zoned completely away from legitimate science and medicine and placed where perhaps they belong, firmly in the lifestyle-extra zone."