I can’t start this post without sharing a little bit of back story on me. I’m adopted, if you didn’t already know, and I have very little information on my biological family. I have been interested in finding more about my heritage and my history for a while, but there isn’t much information out there on most Korean adoptees. There’s much more of a stigma against unwed/single mothers in Korea and it’s often a big source of shame for Korean women, so a lot of the information I do have is not reliable because some of it may or may not be straight up made up stuff.
(You can read a little bit more back story here if you’re interested and/or bored.)
I’ve been interested in doing a DNA test through 23andMe for a while. A few companies have these DNA tests now, but to my knowledge, 23andMe is one of the only ones that actually test for some medical things too, not just ancestry. I went into the test thinking, oh, I don’t really need the ancestry part anyway….I mean, I’m Korean, that’s pretty much it.
The actual process of doing the test is super easy. You order it online (it’s $200, so a bit of an investment…), wait for it to come into the mail, then you spit into the little canister provided and ship it back. I can’t say that I ever thought I would be doing a mail order DNA test
It took about a month from when I got the “Sample received” email until I got word that my results were ready. They’d advertised it as taking about 6-8 weeks, so I appreciated that they got it done even sooner! I love companies that practice the whole “Under promise, over deliver” thing!
The results are broken down into four categories: Ancestry, Carrier Status, Wellness, and Traits. The most surprising thing about mine was that I’m not 100 percent Korean like I initially thought. I’m not even 80 percent Korean! I’m only 47 percent Korean! And it turns out that I’m also almost 1/3 Japanese. This was a huge revelation that I wasn’t really expecting. That much Japanese in my DNA means that I most likely have at least one grandparent who is fully Japanese! Learning that gave me a lot more questions to ask about my family history, but it also helped paint a slightly clearer picture of where I might have come from.
The Carrier Status portion of the report is worth doing the test in itself, especially if you have plans on starting a family one day. They look for variants of genes that show you could be a carrier of 41 different diseases including some I’ve heard of, like Cystic Fibrosis, and a lot I haven’t, like Maple Syrup Urine Disease (yes, that’s a real thing…I’m not joking!). Luckily, I’m not a carrier of any of these things, but it’s good information to have!
The Traits section was really fascinating, but also really fun to look at. They included things like whether or not you are genetically likely to be able to taste bitter things (I’m more likely to not be able to), skin pigmentation, newborn hair amount, etc.
I also found the Wellness portion to be neat. I think this was one of my favorite parts because it confirmed a lot of things I’ve always known about myself, like that I have a very low tolerance for caffeine, that I do not have the dreaded Asian flush (from drinking alcohol), and that I’m not a very deep sleeper. Two of the more interesting results were that I’m genetically likely to stay the same weight whether or not I eat high or low amounts of saturated fats (which probably explains why I can eat so many processed foods and stay mostly the same) and that my fast twitch muscle fibers have the protein that makes me more likely to be a sprinter than an endurance athlete! The second one really surprised me, but at the same time, the more I thought about it, the more it made sense. Yes, I ran a marathon and prefer to run longer distances more slowly than going on fast, short runs, BUT when it comes to lifting weights and lots of other exercises, I excel more at lower reps of heavier weights as opposed to endurance workouts with higher reps at lower weight. It was really cool to learn that there’s a reason I hate high rep workouts and it’s just how I was made!
Another thing you can see with your results is if you inherited certain things from your parents. That was really cool to me, for obvious reasons.
The hardest part about how difficult it is to research my past is that a lot of my questions about my heritage will never have answers. I think doing the DNA test was helpful for me in that it helps to piece together more of a picture of where I might have come from, but at the same time, it gives me a few more questions that may go unanswered for a long time, if not forever. All in all, I am really glad I did this DNA test and I think it was well worth the investment. It would be really interesting and neat for anyone to look at their results, but I would highly recommend doing this if you’re like me and you are adopted and can’t, or don’t want to find your biological family. It’s so neat to be able to learn these things about yourself!