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Website lets you check your DNA for possible medical issues, shows how to stay healthy

Food Genes and Me was the result of a project started by UNLV researchers

If you’ve taken a genealogy test, you can now find out what medical problems your genes make you vulnerable to, and how you can change your diet to keep yourself healthy.

Food Genes and Me, a startup developed by UNLV’s Nevada Institute of Personalized Medicine, offers a free service that lets you do just that.

Anybody who has used genealogy testing services such as FamilyTreeDNA.com, Ancestry.com, MyHeritage.com or 23andMe.com can download their genetic file. While these services focus on providing insight into your family history, this file also holds the key to finding out whether you’re at an increased risk of diabetes, a number of cancers, obesity, and dozens of other health conditions.

That’s where Food Genes and Me comes in.

To uncover out what diseases you’re susceptible to, you just need to upload the DNA file to FoodGenesAndMe.com, fill out a survey, wait as the site checks your file to see what your genes have in store for you. The site will also suggest a personalized diet that will help you avoid these medical issues.

“The goal with Food Genes and Me is to make suggestions specific to each person based on their genes,” said Martin Schiller, the Executive Director of the Nevada Institute of Personalized Medicine. “We’re empowering you to act on something right away to affect your health.”

The information comes from years of work by researchers who searched through 25 million available studies to figure out what genetic markers are associated with diseases, and what dietary choices have been shown to help prevent the conditions from manifesting.

Dr. Schiller says the researchers were very strict about which studies the service used to get its data.

“That’s one of the nice things about what we do,” said Dr. Martin Schiller, the Executive Director of the Nevada Institute of Personalized Medicine. “We only took things that met a rigorous statistical measurement from a scientific study.”

Funding for creating and maintaining the site comes from grants given by the National Institute of Health and the Governor’s Office of Economic Development, allowing the service to be offered without any direct cost to the user.

Dr. Schiller says that, unlike recreational genetics sites, Food Genes and Me will never sell any information to third parties. He hopes that the service and the site’s surveys will help the university increase the accuracy of genetic predictions.

“We hope to get up to 10,000 users,” Dr. Schiller said. “When we get there, we will have enough information to make much more statistically-rigorous suggestions that are published.”

In addition to its main gene-analyzing service, Food Genes and Me also features a blog that Dr. Schiller hopes will help inform the average person about subjects that are often misrepresented to the public, such as gluten sensitivity and whether or not genetics can contribute to obesity. Users are encouraged to make suggestions about what topics they want to be covered in future blog posts, along with any features that they want the service to have.

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