Apr 15, 2020 - Stories

Health Inspiration

Sports and workout equipment on a wooden floor with healthy snacks, weight loss and physical activity concept

Mary taking her “after” photo.

Like a lot of people, Mary struggled to lose weight. Over the years, she tried but failed to take off the pounds, and it made her wonder whether genetics was playing a role. After all, she had a family history of obesity.

That’s, in part, what propelled her to purchase a 23andMe DNA test. She wanted to explore how her genetics may be impacting her health. 

What she learned surprised her, and it inspired her to take action, not just for her health but to connect with her newfound family.

“I found out it wasn’t genetics,” Mary said, laughing.

At least, her 23andMe Genetic Weight report indicated that she wasn’t genetically predisposed to weigh above average. Ironically it was seeing that information that prodded her to act.

“I knew it was up to me,” she said.

Mary began prioritizing her health. She started a new, low-carbohydrate diet. Ultimately the new diet and focus helped Mary finally lose 80 pounds.

“Three of my sisters and I all went on the same low-carb diet,” she said.

They all lost weight.

Then her story took another exciting turn.

Mary had opted-into DNA Relatives, a feature that matches you with other customers with whom you share DNA. Long after she first tested, Mary noticed in her DNA Relative matches a predicted niece and a predicted nephew, who she didn’t know. Mary remembered that both of her sisters had given up children decades ago. As soon as she saw the profile photo of her niece, Ann, she knew Ann was her younger sister’s child.

“Ann looked exactly like my sister,” Mary said.

Mary also matched with a nephew, James, a few weeks later. James was another sister’s child, adopted years earlier. Mary connected with both Ann and James, happy to share family information with them.

Ann revealed that she too had joined 23andMe not necessarily for ancestry but for the health reports. Adopted at a young age and now in her 40s, Ann didn’t have a family health history to rely on. Mary shared important information about the family’s health, including the fact that several family members had died at a young age from heart disease. Ann was relieved to have a fuller picture of her family’s health history.

Ann also mentioned that she would like the opportunity to get to know her birth mother, Mary’s sister.

“I’m not looking to disrupt her life, but I want her to know I appreciate what she did for me because I had an awesome family,” Ann told Mary.

Mary put Ann in touch with her sister. Last year on Mother’s Day, mother and daughter spoke on the phone together for the first time. They were thrilled to connect.

Mary said she has her grandmother to thank for that because it was her grandmother who helped trigger her interest in genetics. Born in the 1890s, her grandmother was ahead of her time, interested in education, learning, and her family’s history, especially their family health history. 

“Her handwritten family tree included notes about illnesses, and included a note that said ‘lots of obesity in this branch,’” Mary said. “That’s what prompted me to do the DNA test.”

Her grandmother thought that at some time in the future science would advance to the point that this information would be helpful to future generations. It has been for Mary and the new family she’s connected with. 

Spurred by her personal fascination with genetics, Mary sees her 23andMe report — and the new updates that have continued to come out of it — as valuable information that has helped her and her family to lead healthier, more fulfilling lives.

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