Genetic Rant & Roll – The Miniseries: Part 10

Lin/Linda here:  Here we are, at the end of what seems like a long journey.  We want to wrap this up with some thoughts we each have about the value to us of the genetic testing that we had and offer some words about genetic testing in general.

Before I start, we want to thank Gerry at ArcticDX for having us tested and for patiently explaining the results to us.  We’ve learned a lot.  Of course, as we’ve mentioned several times, there are other sources of genetic testing (there’s a link at the bottom of Part 1).  Let’s first discuss the testing that we had which is the Vita Risk test.

Benefit to me

I’m not the ‘typical’ person to be tested in that I don’t have AMD but I am very glad that I found out that I am zinc sensitive which means that if/when I develop the disease, I will NOT take zinc but I should take the antioxidants that are in the AREDS/AREDS2 supplements.  As to whether knowing that I’m in the 81st risk percentile is valuable, I expected to have a higher-than-average risk because my dad had AMD. But then again, my grasp of what numbers really mean has never been that great! ::smile::

General benefit in my opinion

I think that the real value is for people with early, intermediate or advanced AMD in only one eye to have both the Vita Risk and Macula Risk testing.  In addition to knowing what supplements will help or harm, the patient can find out what their risk is of developing advanced AMD in the next 10 years.  That information can help their eye doctor manage their care in the best way possible.

For someone who is categorized as high risk (M-3 or M-4), that may also provide the motivation the person needs to work on their part of the equation which is the 30-40% of the overall risk that is based on lifestyle factors like nutrition, weight, exercise, blood pressure and cholesterol control and smoking.

Even before I had the Vita Risk test, I knew I would have a higher-than-average genetic risk so I’d already started to work on my issues with nutrition, weight and exercise.  Luckily, my blood pressure and cholesterol are fine.

Zinc

There are some people who believe that the solution to one’s concern as to whether they are zinc sensitive is to not have genetic testing done but to take a supplement with a low dose of zinc or without any zinc.  That is an option and may be the only one available to those whose eye doctor does not work with genetic testing like this or for those whose insurance won’t pay for it.  Some things to consider:

  1. Zinc did help some people in the AREDS1 & AREDS2 trials but there was also benefit without it.  In both studies there was a group who received antioxidants with zinc and one who received antioxidants only.  The reduction of progression to advanced AMD was significant for both groups:
    1. antioxidants with zinc: 25% reduction
    2. antioxidants without zinc: 17% reduction
  2. Supplements, vitamins and minerals are not regulated by the FDA. However, the National Institute of Health has guidelines.  For zinc in terms of safety, the upper limit is 40 mg.  The dosage used in the AREDS1/AREDS2 studies was 80mg.  There was a subgroup in AREDS2 where the dose of zinc used was 25 mg and they found no difference between the results of it and with the results of the groups who got 80mg.
  3. For those who are zinc sensitive, even 25 mg is considered to be too much.

The point is that everyone has to make their own decision as to how to handle the issue of benefit vs risk of taking zinc without the knowledge that comes from genetic testing.  Is the difference between 25% reduced risk of advanced AMD with zinc that much MORE than 17% without zinc?   I’m certainly not the person to ask about that one! ::smile::

 

Next: Genetic Rant & Roll – The Miniseries: Final

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