I took a 23andMe test last year because, like most people who do it, I was curious about my ancestry. The results were not terribly surprising. (Looking at the sea of blonde-haired people in our family reunion pictures, no one would be shocked to learn that I'm mostly British and Irish.) I did, however, learn a few interesting things about my other favorite topic (other than myself, that is): food.
Health + Ancestry Report, $139 (now through June 17) at 23andMe
I took the more expensive health and ancestry test (the basic test just includes ancestry) that tests for 79 health-related markers. (The one I took is normally $199, but there's currently a promotion that brings it down to $139!) While many of the tests look for variants that could increase the risks of serious diseases, some of them are just fun. And five of them are food-related.
Here are five fun food-centric things you can learn from a 23andMe test.
1. Why you drink so much darn caffeine.
Just like I wasn't surprised to learn that I am mostly British genetically, I also wasn't surprised to learn I am likely to drink more caffeine, on average, than most people. This may be due to genes located on my 15th and 17th chromosomes.
2. Whether or not you're likely to be lactose-intolerant.
The health test for 23andMe also tests for a genetic variant for the ability to digest lactose. Because we didn't evolve to consume dairy after childhood, research suggests lactose tolerance is actually a genetic mutation, not the other way around.
3. Why you find that post-asparagus bathroom trip to be so stinky.
Theres's no nice way to put this: The distinct odor that you find in urine after eating asparagus is likely only detected by people with a certain marker on their first chromosome. But, like all factors, genetics don't necessarily have the final word. Around a quarter of people in my genotype, who should also be able to detect that less-than-lovely odor, report not being able to.
4. Why you hate broccoli and Brussels sprouts.
This is for anyone who insisted to their parents that they just truly hated broccoli growing up: The ability to taste certain bitter flavors might be determined by your genes. While some people might not notice it at all, others taste raw broccoli and Brussels sprouts as bitter and avoid them altogether.
5. Why you prefer sweet treats over salty ones.
There are 43 (43!) genetic markers that contribute to whether you prefer sweet or salty foods, including genes that dictate brain development. My genetic markers were split: 19 for "likely salty preference," 14 for "likely sweet," and 10 that should have no affect at all. With salty coming slightly ahead, I have to admit I'm not surprised: I'd always rather have potato chips than a brownie.
23andMe Sale Details
Want to try it out for yourself? 23andMe is currently running a sale through Father's Day. Both the Ancestry + Health kit and the regular Ancestry kit are 30 percent off (though the latter doesn't test for all these fun food things) and Amazon has competitive prices, too. Idea: It makes a great Father's Day gift for the dad who loves genealogy — or the dad who likes making jokes about asparagus pee.