MyHeritage Adds Obesity Risk Score to Home Genetic Test

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by Forest Ray PhD |

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MyHeritage, a consumer genetic testing company, has added a risk score for genetic obesity and high body mass index (BMI) to its at-home product called MyHeritage DNA Health test.

The addition comes along with six other new features, including an enhanced hereditary BRCA cancer report, and five carrier status reports to assess the risk of carrying an obesity-related disease such as Bardet-Biedl syndrome 2 that may be passed down to children.

“As the MyHeritage Health test continues to evolve, we’ve received testimonials from customers all over the world whose lives have changed for the better as a result of taking this test,” Yaniv Erlich, PhD, chief science officer of MyHeritage, said in a press release. “Every testimonial we receive deepens our resolve to enhance our offering and provide additional, powerful, and relevant genetic health insights to the public.”

More than 650 million people are estimated to be obese worldwide. Obesity raises the risk for numerous other health complications, including stroke, coronary heart disease, type 2 diabetes, and mental health disorders. In the U.S., more than 40% of adults are estimated to be obese.

Although lifestyle choices can control obesity, genetic variations impact a person’s predisposition for excessive weight gain.

Studies that assess the complete genetic makeup — genome-wide association studies — found more than 50 genes associated with obesity. Assessments that look more closely at a smaller number of genes have further implicated rare variants of at least nine genes in genetic obesity.

The gene most commonly implicated in obesity is MC4R, which codes for a protein called melanocortin 4 receptor. When altered, MC4R can cause insatiable hunger and low energy expenditure, ultimately resulting in obesity.

Obesity-related direct-to-consumer genetic tests, such as the MyHeritage Health kit, have become more readily available in recent years, although research suggests that public education on their risks and benefits should be improved.

MyHeritage’s new report on obesity and high BMI takes into consideration genetics, age, and country of residence when assessing the potential impact of thousands of genetic variations on a person’s risk for obesity.

In addition, the test includes risk scores for obesity-related conditions such as heart disease, high blood pressure, and type 2 diabetes.

All seven new reports come free of charge to existing MyHeritage Health customers with a Health subscription, which grants access to new reports as they are released. The complete set of 42 health reports will also be available to people who purchase the MyHeritage DNA Health kit or who upgrade to receive health reports.

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