Can a genetic test predict your chances of heart disease?

Internet news stories are boring for a while and then two interesting things can come along the same day. Today, just as I finished completing a survey on nutrigenomic genetic testing--the testing that claims to tell you how to change what you eat and how you treat your body, based on your genetic makeup--I found a slew of stories stating that there is no genetic link for heart disease risk.

The stories are in many places, but most of them read the same, starting as follows:

 No genetic link found for heart risk, study says

Tests failed to find mutations that would predict cardiovascular disease

Updated: 12:13 p.m. PT April 11, 2007
CHICAGO - Genetic testing failed to find any gene mutations that predict a higher risk of heart disease, a study released on Tuesday said.

Scientists at Yale University worked up the genetic profiles of nearly 1,500 people to examine 85 genes that smaller, earlier studies suggested might confer susceptibility to heart problems.

More than half the patients had come to a hospital having suffered a heart attack or other acute symptoms, while the others had experienced no heart trouble.

Only one genetic variation showed even a modest association to heart problems in the study, which was published in the Journal of the American Medical Association.

“We therefore conclude that our findings, in this large sample ... cannot support that this panel of gene variants contains bona fide (heart disease) risk factors,” study author Dr. Thomas Morgan wrote. Morgan is now at Washington University in St. Louis.

So, can nutrigenomics genetic testing--or any other form of genetic testing--predict your risk of getting heart disease? Not according to the Yale study. BUT, as I noted in an earlier blog entry, there are some forms of heart conditions that have been shown to have strong genetic components to them. One of these is the type of cardiomyopathy that is all-too-often the cause of sudden death of people in their 20s and 30s. For a story related to this, please select the Your Stories tab at the top of the page and read about the woman who cheated death.

Marie Godfrey, PhD

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