Time now for our "Life & Info" segment… where we focus on information that is useful in your everyday life.
This year, there's been a growing number of people around the world, mostly in the U.S. and European countries, taking DNA tests at home to find out not only their bloodline or ancestry but also genetic factors that influence their health.
We have our Oh Soo-young in the studio, filling us in on what kind of useful services are available.
So Soo-young. I understand you actually took a DNA test.
That's right. As you said, taking these tests have become something of a trend around the world lately.
It's estimated that more than 17 million people have taken a direct-to-consumer DNA test as of late 2018, compared to around 12 million people earlier that year.
After seeing some reviews on social media, I decided to take one myself.
You can order the test online, from a handful of companies that offer test kits, and it's quite straight forward. You take a saliva sample, post it off and that's it.
So how long does it take to get the results, and what did you find out about yourself?
It takes around a month to get the results back. It took about three weeks for me.
What most people are curious about is the ethnicity. The tests trace how much of certain ethnicities are in your DNA.
I took two tests actually, and both say that I am mostly South Korean. Which isn't much of a surprise. But they also traced my ancestry to Northern Europe, Nepal and South America which was definitely interesting.
On some platforms, you can connect to other users that share some of your genes meaning they could actually be distant relatives. I've found a third cousin, actually, who was adopted and grew up in the U.S.
Another major use of DNA home kits is health and wellness. So the tests pick up certain genetic traits such as whether you're prone to blushing from drinking alcohol, whether you like the smell of cilantro, whether you are likely to develop diabetes and more.
So that information could actually lead to practical uses for consumers, as they become more aware and informed about their genetic dispositions.
So what are the kinds of products and services that are available here in Korea?
Well, due to Korea's relatively strict regulations on D2C DNA test kits, local firms can't access or utilize as much genetic information as they would like.
So currently, the services are somewhat limited, but they are growing in number and variety mostly in cosmetics and health supplements.
One of the services that I tried was a meal planning service.
Based on your DNA results, which include your cholesterol levels, metabolism as well as skin elasticity, likelihood of discoloration and hair thickness, a catering company comes up with the perfect plan for you.
It comes up with various dishes you can make at home, offers advice on what kind of nutrients you should be consuming more as well as foods you should avoid.
You can subscribe to a meal delivery service as well, to have your own customized meals brought to your door.
I spoke to the CEO of the company Grace Park who elaborated on the benefits of having meals that complement your genetic make-up.
"We live in a world where so many people as young as thirty years old are developing conditions such as cancer, high blood pressure and diabetes. Based on your genetic make-up, you need to take care of your eating habits and environmental factors over the long-run, as the impact will show up over time.."
So, as you can see, you can use your genetic information to optimize your health.
AND look after your skin as well.
Another company I contacted has been developing skincare products based on DNA information.
It apparently takes about 10 days to analyse your data and the company suggests solutions based on your stats on skin elasticity, discolouration and ageing.
"Customers seeking brand value or products that offer benefits for all are a thing of the past. We, on the other hand, offer a wide range of products developed for each individual customer. For instance, our skincare products contain elements that curb the genes that cause rapid aging, loss of skin elasticity and skin discolouration."
Companies like these are pushing the government to ease regulations so that DNA-based services can become even more optimised for individual needs.
Well, this all sounds fascinating, Sooyoung. Thanks for coming in today.
Thanks for having me