J.D. Moyer

beat maker, sci-fi writer, self-experimenter

DNAFit Review

Screen Shot 2014-09-18 at 12.40.52 PM

Recently I was offered a trail membership to the DNAFit service. The service provides specific health recommendations (exercise and diet) based on access to your 23andMe SNP data. This kind of thing is right up my alley so I jumped at the chance to try out the service. Unfortunately 23andMe has been prohibited from providing health results to customers by the FDA, but for people who have already obtained health data from 23andMe, it’s still possible to get recommendations from DNAFit.

The Trial

I was offered a coupon to apply to various DNAFit services on an a la carte basis. I chose to apply the coupon the diet recommendations as that interests me more than exercise recommendations. Thus, this review only applies to the Diet recommendations on DNAFit, and excludes the Fitness section.

The Interface

The DNAFit is attractively designed, but I found the interface to be a little confusing. There is a collapsed view of your results that looks like this:

Screen Shot 2014-09-18 at 11.29.44 AMand an expanded view that looks like this:
Screen Shot 2014-09-18 at 11.30.13 AM
So you can click on one of thirteen boxes in various shades of burgundy, and that box expands to fill out the three panel row (with vertical scroll bars on the rightmost two panels). Maybe I’m just slow to pick up on new interfaces, but it took me a minute to figure out how to get to all the data. I would have preferred a single large pop-up screen or panel without any scroll bars.

Health Recommendations

Most of the health recommendations seemed reasonable to me, and matched up with my own trial-and-error results regarding what works for me in terms of diet and nutrition. However, some of the recommendations (like limiting my saturated fat intake to 10% of my total caloric intake) seemed off-base, and made me wonder what studies the recommendations were based on. Human or animal studies? One-off or well-replicated studies? Tiny or large sample sizes? Unfortunately this information does not seem to be included.

Maybe the designers wanted to keep the interface simple and clean and not overwhelm their customers with data. However, since 100% of their potential customer base are early 23andMe adopters (health nerds), I strongly believe they should be erring on the side of providing too much data. 23andMe provides detailed citations for each health result (see below). Why not do the same?

Screen Shot 2014-09-18 at 11.44.36 AM

The complete list of diet results includes:

  • Ideal Diet
  • Carbohydrate Sensitivity
  • Saturated Fat Sensitivity
  • Detox Ability
  • Antioxidant Needs
  • Omega-3 Needs
  • Vitamin B Needs
  • Vitamin D Needs
  • Salt Sensitivity
  • Alcohol Sensitivity
  • Caffeine Sensitivity
  • Lactose Intolerance
  • Coeliac Predisposition

The most interesting results for me were that I supposedly have an increased need for anti-oxidants, omega-3 fatty acids, B vitamins, and vitamin D. According to their results I am also susceptible to high blood pressure if I consume too much salt, possibly gluten intolerant, and have no trouble with digesting milk products.

I’ve come to many of the same conclusions from my own experiments (for example, I got rid of my asthma by reducing gluten and supplementing with vitamin D and fish oil). However, some of the recommendations seem premature, or too vague. DNAFit recommends that I consume a certain amount of B vitamins based on my heterozygous MTHFR, but they don’t specify if I should get those vitamins from food or supplements.

Screen Shot 2014-09-18 at 12.04.15 PM
My MTHFR results show that my body methylates inefficiently; thus I’m less able than most to convert supplemental folic acid to its methylated, biologically available form (folate). And if I consume too much folic acid that could even make folate less available. Folic acid supplementation has even been associated with increased cancer risk. Vitamin B6 and B12 are also only useable in their methylated forms (and most vitamin B supplements are not methylated). In addition to all this, I have personally noticed negative effects from supplementing with B vitamins (asthma, insomnia, agitation). B vitamins are complicated, and I think DNAFit would be better off specifying food-based sources. To their credit, DNAFit does provide a lists of foods high in the various B vitamins they are recommending.Screen Shot 2014-09-18 at 12.16.26 PM

Users are able to download a PDF of their complete health report. The report is attractively designed, well-written, and includes detailed health recommendations which seemed for the most part reasonable. My only complaint is that I wanted DNAFit to “show their work” (include citations) so I could drill down and decided for myself in regards to some of their recommendations.

Pricing

If it were my decision I would provide all the health reports for a single flat fee. This might reduce early revenue, but it would almost certainly build the customer base and increase word-of-mouth marketing.

Privacy

Obviously, to use the DNAFit service, you need to provide the company access to your genetic data via 23andMe. This is a personal decision — it’s perfectly understandable if you’re not comfortable doing this. For me, curiosity usually outweighs caution. Here is the company’s privacy statement.

Would I Recommend This Service?

I like this service, but I’m not quite ready to recommend it. With a few easy fixes I would be happy to recommend DNAFit. Here’s a summary of what I think needs immediate fixing:

  1. Offer a flat, reasonable pricing plan (pay once for all reports).
  2. Provide citations (even if buried at the end of the health report).

I also think the interface could be made more intuitive, and I would change the B vitamin recommendation as described above, but those are minor quibbles.

My guess is that 23andMe will eventually gain FDA approval (DNAfit is based in the UK so I suppose they are not subject to FDA regulations re: health recommendations), and at that point DNAFit may see their potential customer base expand significantly. I think the company is offering a valuable service and I wish them the best of luck.

 

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12 Comments

  1. Aaron Ashmann

    hey is it possible for them throw out more trial periods?

    • I don’t know but it couldn’t hurt to ask. You could contact Sharon Wetton @wetz65 on Twitter. I’m sure it would help if you had a platform to review the service.

  2. rg

    Strangely, my wife and I had IDENTICAL results on dnafit despite significant ethnic differences. Also, the two screen shots that you have are the same as ours–do you happen to also be either Ashkenazi or Finnish?

    • Interesting. Did you drill down to compare the 23andMe genotypes of the genes analyzed by DNAfit, to see if they were the same? For example for PPARG (related to Type 2 diabetes risk) you could login and go to this URL:

      https://www.23andme.com/you/journal/type2diabetes/techreport/

      and then scroll down to compare your genotypes to your wife’s (assuming you are sharing data).

      It seems unlikely that you and your wife would have the exact same genotype on all the analyzed SNPs. Let me know what you discover if you do some digging.

  3. Vayu Botanicals

    Thank you for this. I have done the 23andme testing and ran it through genetic genie and the Mthfr support software. It’s certainly a fine kettle of fish to sort through! I don’t think we know enough yet to specify such pointed nutritional advice., but i’m intrigued. As a nutritionist I think it’s obvious to tell everyone not to take any folic acid. That’s a safe bet. Lower fat intake, very suspect ( poor data? ) Do you have the ApoE4 alle as I do? Only in that case would it make some sense ( or not).

  4. Shea Mixon

    This is a standard form they stick some numbers in and say its you. There is nothing in this report worth paying even $5.00 for. Don’t waste your money. Total scam!

    • I don’t believe it’s a scam. All the DNAfit results I spot-checked matched my 23andMe results, and while I didn’t agree with every single piece of health advice, none of it seemed random or off-the-wall. Unless you think 23andMe is a scam too? They would have to be incredibly lucky if so, as 100% of the directly observable phenotypic traits my 23andMe results predicted are correct.

  5. Jie Huang

    Below is my email just sent to DNAFit. I think this company is more than a SCAM. Nobody else get cheated by these people, please!!!

    =========================
    Dear Sir/Madam:

    I paid a total of £128 to try your website, which is already twice the price as 23&Me, while you guys even did not measure my DNA as 23&Me did. So, I certainly was expecting a lot more for your reports.

    Please see my attached reports. I was so surprised that the information presented here is so simple and vague, without details of explanation. Basically, the whole report is based on a table on page 13, “UNDERSTANDING YOUR FULL GENOTYPE BREAKDOWN”. Below are my specific questions:

    1. The report says that my personal power/endurance response is 34.9% and 65.1%. I guess these two numbers always add up to 100% for everybody. I wanted to see my comparison to the general population or elite athletes as advertised on your website, not comparing to myself!!!

    2. It shows that COL5A1 has homozygous “CC” genotype but has an Effect of “-“. Then for NRF, it has a heterozygous genotype “AG”, but has an effect of “++”. Can you let me know how this effect is calculated? In 23andMe, I can see exactly how my increased/decreased health risk is calculated.

    3. I actually studied CRP and IL-6 myself for my PhD thesis. Can you please let me know the scientific evidence for including these two genes in your calculations?

    4. For “Your Post-Exercise Nutrition Needs”, it says that my recommended daily intake for Vitamin C is “105 mg”. What genotype was used to calculate this, can you please let me know?

    Unless I missed something, if this is the full report that I could get for £128, I would demand a refund of my payment and the cancelling of my account. I hope that you guys do have a customer satisfaction and refund policy. I am invited to local and international conferences to present some assessments on genetic testing. I hope that I don’t need to give a very negative assessment on DNAFIT.

    Looking forward to your feedback!

    Best regards,

    Jie Huang, MD PhD

  6. Jie,
    Thanks for posting your experience. I, too, were disappointed by the report. In addition to being superficial and vague in its recommendations (quite the opposite the average consumer would expect from a report based on their individual DNA) it seems to contain several pieces of bad advice. Advising individuals with an MTHFR mutation to supplement with folic acid (instead of methyl folate) is the exact opposite of what experts on this mutation recommend. The vitamin recommendations seem to be nothing more than RDIs, and again not at all individualized. For example, 800 IUs of vitamin D can hardly be expected to bring levels up to ideal for someone with an VDR snp.

    I, too, have asked to be refunded. Did they honor your request?

  7. Dr. Rhonda Patrick’s free PDF report on nutragenomics is definitely worth checking out if you have 23andMe data:
    http://www.foundmyfitness.com/?sendme=nutrigenomics

  8. Joe

    Very insightful to a perspective user O DNAFit however one complaint: is the date marker of the report lacks the year without presuming it is in the current year 2015. A minor point I know but weighs on the relevance of the report in conjunction with other research sources.. but thanks

  9. Victor

    So you are suggesting that is possible to tailor a diet/nutrition plan based only on the genetic results?

    I have few autoimmune disorders and, if I would make my diet based on my DNA SPNs I could wake up in a very nasty situation.

    What do you think of that?
    My strong impression is that this company is lying about the value of their services.

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