Health Testing Reviews for DNA Four

At a Glance

Editor's Rating:
4.5 out of 5 stars
Customer Service:
4.5 out of 5 stars
Clarity of Results:
4 out of 5 stars
References Cited:
5 out of 5 stars
Value for Money:
5 out of 5 stars

Summary

I found the My Genetic Compass app to be comprehensive and interesting. It included a range of information about fitness and nutrition, disease predispositions, and medication response. I was pleased to see that they included the rsIDs of the genetic variants they looked at, and links to the research articles they used.

I would have felt more comfortable had my genetic risks for diseases been more specific about my actual statistical risk, since simply flagging conditions as higher risk without specifying how high they really were gave the impression that the risk was higher than it really was. A note saying that environmental and lifestyle factors have a greater contribution to disease risk would also have made this less alarming.

For a free service, I thought the information provided in the app was very generous, and I was impressed both by the referencing of results and that the app was curated and updated according to the most recent research.

Full Review

My Genetic Health, a subsidiary of DNAFour, specialises in genomic health analysis. Their free app – My Genetic Compass – was developed by Jesse Reinhalter, the director of product development at DNAFour, who holds a degree in Aeronautical Science.

My Genetic Health aims to provide users with the most current public medical research related to genetic health and fitness.

Product Expectations

I found the ‘My Genetic Compass’ app in the Apple App Store, where I could read a description and view screenshots of the app.

I learned that the app would use my genetic data from 23andMe (or similar) to generate information about my body type, diet and exercise, potential vitamin deficiencies I may have, my responses to common pharmaceuticals, disease predispositions, and other genes impacting health and well-being.

I saw a note that they would be constantly updating the service as new research is released. Sceptical, I clicked the “Version History”, and saw that the last update had been made as recently as last month! Considering this is a free service, I was pleasantly surprised by how diligently they curated it.

Curious about the actual company, I sought out the My Genetic Health webpage. There wasn’t much more information than had been provided on the app store (as far as I know, companies specialising in mobile apps don’t generally have comprehensive websites – ever been to the Angry Birds website?). But I did read that the company was dedicated to providing users with the latest publicly available research, and that all my genetic results would have research references explicitly cited.

If I wanted, I would also be able to print or email my results to share with my doctor.

Ordering Process

I could download the app for free from the Apple Store, which was compatible with both the iPhone and iPad. Opening the app, I was asked to agree to the Terms and Conditions, which were very short.

These stated that My Genetic Compass was not a medical or diagnostic tool, and that the report was for educational and research purposes only. The company would respect my privacy, and would not access, sell, lease or rent my genetic information.

I found I could log into my 23andMe account directly, or upload a raw data file from iCloud Drive, Google Drive, OneDrive, or Dropbox.

I chose to log in using my 23andMe credentials. 23andMe asked me if I consented to allow the app to view my full name, email address, account service type (ancestry or health and ancestry), and genomic information. They also listed the rsIDs of the genetic variants the app would have access to.

Once I consented, I was asked to select a profile (my genetic profile was the only one on my 23andMe account). Once I’d selected this, my results were loaded almost instantaneously.

The Results

My results summary page had five options: Fitness, Medical, My Reports (with a printer icon), Access Data, and CounselTrust.

Results Section: Fitness

Clicking on Fitness, I could see an overview of what was included in my results (shown below).

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My Fitness overview.

My Fitness overview.

The fitness section included information about body type, weight loss and exercise, diet and weight loss, vitamins, and the MTHFR gene.

My “Body Type” would be determined on whether I have slow-twitch skeletal muscle fibres (making me better at endurance) or fast-twitch muscle fibres (making me better at power training). I found that my genetics predisposed me to be better at endurance training.

This was a little surprising, given that I’d always thought my endurance was terrible (though maybe that was just my short attention span). Of course, it could be that although I am predisposed to be good at endurance training, I’ve never really bothered to develop this. In the “What This Means” section, I read that “Having this genetic predisposition and expressing [it] are 2 different things.”

They recommended I try low-intensity “steady-state” training, such as long distance running, swimming, and cycling. I was recommended to try the ‘Couch to 5K’ running app, or the ‘5K to 10K’ app for those who already have strong endurance.

I could view the rsID (location in my genome) of the genetic variant they had looked at for this result. I saw that my genotype was T;T, which I took to mean I had both copies of the variant (T) associated with a predisposition for endurance training.

I noticed a little plus sign in the bottom-right corner. Tapping this, I found I could search within this section, share or print my results, email them, or explore the different reference papers they’d looked at.

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My Body Type results, with options menu expanded.

My Body Type results, with options menu expanded.

Next, I looked at my results for “Exercise”. Here, I found some contrasting information. I was told that I may “lose weight” most efficiently from High Intensity Interval Training (HIIT). I thought it was a bit weird that they assumed I wanted to lose weight when I hadn’t been asked, but maybe this was what they expected a lot of people would use the app for.

I learned that HIIT training involving short bursts of high-intensity workouts, followed by periods of rest. There were plenty of exercises I could do, such as cycling, sprinting and jumping jacks. I was provided with a table showing how I might build up my HIIT training as I progress (shown below).

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My High Intensity Interval Training table.

My High Intensity Interval Training table.

This sort of training sounded more like strength than endurance: quick bursts of high intensity workouts. I thought it was weird that I should be recommended this as well as endurance training, though I supposed that the interactions between these different fitness-related genes haven’t yet been studied conclusively.

Still, this HIIT training sounded more like the sorts of exercise I already did, and so it seemed like a good fit.

Results Section: Diet and Nutrition

Next, I looked at my Diet results. These told me I could lose weight most effectively through a low fat diet. Again, I was a little confused by the assumption that I wanted to lose weight: I’d much rather have received recommendations for maintaining a balanced, health-sustaining diet, than one focussed on shedding weight.

I was told to seek foods high in omega-3 fats, and to avoid over-consumption of omega-6 fats, which have inflammatory properties. I was given examples of foods high in omega-3, which included grass-fed beef, wild salmon, chia seeds, and other nuts and seeds. I was also given examples of quality carbohydrates, and was surprised to see fruits and vegetables among the list, since I thought these – with the exception of potatoes – did not contain much carbohydrate (shown below).

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My Omega-3 and Carbohydrate recommendations.

My Omega-3 and Carbohydrate recommendations.

There was also a pie chart, which showed in what proportion the different food groups should be consumed: 60% carbohydrate, 15% protein, and 25% fat.

In the “Vitamins” section, I could view how well my body metabolises different vitamins and omega-3, and how effective my body is at producing antioxidants. I learned that my SOD2 gene should function normally, though if I found myself exposed to high levels of oxidative stress (through radiation exposure, stress, lack of sleep, or physical overexertion), I should try to combat this through including antioxidants like beta-carotene and vitamins A, C and E in my diet.

I also discovered that I may be low in vitamins A, B6, B12, and E, and it was recommended I incorporate foods with high levels of these vitamins into my diet, or seek out supplements.

My “MTHFR” results were to do with the methylation pathway, which I have read about at least five times and still don’t really understand, and the information supplied by My Genetic Compass wasn’t any more illuminating for me!

Essentially, the MTHFR gene and related genes affect folate levels, which in turn affects epigenetics, the process in which certain genes are switched on or off. Folate also helps reduce levels of homocysteine, which can cause heart disease. I found I had no troublesome variations in my MTHFR gene, though my associated MTRR gene had a couple of variations that could adversely affect my B12 levels, and cause higher levels of homocysteine.

Results Section: Medical

Before I could view my “Medical” results, I had to agree to a Disclaimer. This basically said that the information provided was not medical advice, that they assumed no responsibility if I sought any sort of medical advice, and that they did not endorse the online resources they provided links to.

In the Medical section, I found information about my likely responses to medication for a range of conditions, including certain cancers, diabetes, HIV/AIDS, epilepsy, sleep disorders, and more.

In the “Diseases” section, I found that my 23andMe results lacked the necessary information to provide a result for many of the conditions, since they did not include the genetic variants associated with higher or lower risk.

The disease categories were divided into autoimmune/inflammatory, cancer, cardiovascular, digestive/GI related, mental health, and other.

I couldn’t view most of my autoimmune/inflammatory results, but I did find, disturbingly enough, that I had an increased risk for many types of cancers, including colorectal, lymphocytic leukaemia, pancreatic, skin, and thyroid cancer.

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A section of my cancer risks.

A section of my cancer risks.

As you can see, I was told which rsIDs had been looked at, and whether my risk was normal, low or increased – though not what this actually meant for me. For instance, I had a higher than average risk for developing thyroid cancer, but the actual risk of developing thyroid cancer must be so low that having a genetic risk probably doesn’t actually increase it by much, unless the genetic variants I have are some sort of “death gene” marking me out to die from five different types of cancer.

In the cardiovascular section, I found I had an increased risk for high blood pressure, thrombosis, and coronary heart disease. At this point, it seemed a wonder that I was still alive.

I also – weirdly – found I had an increased risk of celiac disease, which I’m pretty sure I don’t have, and of developing type-2 diabetes, which I hope I don’t get!

In the “Other” section, I found I had an increased risk of hearing loss. Tuberculosis was also in this section, which seemed pretty obscure, though I didn’t have a result for this.

Results Section: My Reports, Access Data and CounselTrust

Selecting “My Reports”, I found I could print or email my entire reports from here. They also listed the reports that were coming soon, including a relationship report, ancestry and a career guidance report.

In “Access Data”, I could upload a different genetic data file to analyse, while “CounselTrust” was an invitation to find out more about DNAFour’s genetic counselling service.

Summary

I found the My Genetic Compass app to be comprehensive and interesting. It included a range of information about fitness and nutrition, disease predispositions, and medication response. I was pleased to see that they included the rsIDs of the genetic variants they looked at, and links to the research articles they used.

I would have felt more comfortable had my genetic risks for diseases been more specific about my actual statistical risk, since simply flagging conditions as higher risk without specifying how high they really were gave the impression that the risk was higher than it really was. A note saying that environmental and lifestyle factors have a greater contribution to disease risk would also have made this less alarming.

For a free service, I thought the information provided in the app was very generous, and I was impressed both by the referencing of results and that the app was curated and updated according to the most recent research.

See a description of this DNA test from DNA Four >