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How to tell if a DNA report is good

Written by Joe Cohen, BS | Last updated:

I already told you about my favorite four ways to find out if a biotech company is legit before you even take a look at their product. 

But, what if you already have the reports or health product? How can you tell if it’s any good? 

Here’s what you need to check. 

1. Look for References

The first thing you want to see is if every statement is backed by scientific research.

On average, a SelfDecode report has 150-300 unique scientific references to peer-reviewed journal articles.

However, not all sources are equal. We’ve seen a lot of reports from other companies with references that are riddled with scientific errors.

Some companies will put references for their own benefit. If they think a topic will “sell well,” they’ll add references to make themselves seem legitimate, but those references are not scientifically valid.

I’ve looked at competitor reports that were covering certain health topics, but anytime I asked our science team to look at those reports, they came back with “it’s complete junk science”.

All this combined makes it very difficult for people without extensive training to check for validity. That’s why checking the qualifications of the team writing the content is so important.

At SelfDecode, we only use references that are based on human studies, and each sentence and reference on our reports is checked 3 times by 3 different scientists to make sure there are no errors. 

This takes a lot more time and effort and it doesn’t really increase revenue because 99% of people don’t check references, but it’s in SelfDecode’s DNA to create something that is accurate and will truly help you take control of your health. 

2. Check the Number of Variants Analyzed For Each Report 

When it comes to genetic analysis companies, I know I already talked about checking the overall number of variants they analyze.

However, you also need to check how many variants the company is looking at for a given topic (e.g. blood sugar, anxiety, gut inflammation). The most cutting-edge polygenetic risk scoring models analyze thousands or millions of variants for each topic.

That’s because there are often millions of variants involved in determining a person’s genetic likelihood of experiencing a health issue. By analyzing this many variants, you’ll get the most accurate representation of your genetic predispositions.

Unfortunately, the vast majority of companies are only checking 50-100 SNPs in their whole app, and there’s just no way to produce accurate results with so little data. 

In contrast, SelfDecode analyzes  83 MILLION SNPs in our platform and often 1 million+ variants in a single report using complex AI and machine learning algorithms.

3. How Accurate is the Ancestry Data?

Since people of different ancestries have different risks, the scientific models need to adjust for this in order to produce accurate genetic predictions (polygenetic risk scoring).

It’s pretty easy to tell if their ancestry is wrong since most people generally know where their ancestors are from, so it’s a simple test to check if a company is producing legitimate material or not.

If the company cannot do ancestry well, then you shouldn’t trust the rest of the stuff that they are doing.

We looked at every company with ancestry, and besides the largest direct-to-consumer companies that are focused on that (23andme, Ancestry, MyHeritage), none of the smaller companies were accurate at all.

At SelfDecode, we’ve already built the backend technology needed to analyze ancestry and adjust our models. Now, we’re in the process of building the front end so that consumers like you will be able to see your ancestry results. 

And it’s already impressively accurate! 

As an aside, we’ve also tested our polygenic risk scoring models against the leading polygenetic risk scores on the market, and ours outperformed all of them. We will be submitting our results soon and getting them published in peer-reviewed journals. (Btw, we are looking for Ashkenazic Jews, so if you are over 99% Ashkenazic, please let us know and we will give you a special discount for SelfDecode.)

4. Look for Recommendations

It’s one thing to see what your genetic predisposition is, but the more important thing is to get insights on what to do about it. 

Very few companies actually provide recommendations. If they do, they are not personalized based on your genetics.

In addition, there are some companies that give recommendations based SOLELY on a gene. This is not a legitimate approach. A recommendation should show clinical evidence for a specific condition in addition to helping relevant genes.

At SelfDecode, our process for creating a report works like this:

1. Our science team gathers a list of all recommendations with scientific evidence behind it for helping a condition. 

2. The recommendations are ranked based on how much impact they have on the condition and how much supporting evidence there is.

3. Our highly qualified team analyzes the connections between the recommendations and specific genetic variants so that the list can be prioritized based on which may be most effective for an individual.

5. It’s Not Just About Genetics

Most companies will sell their genetic reports as the “one report you need to change your life,” but the truth is, there’s way more to it. It’s important to realize that while genetics is a powerful tool in optimizing your health, there’s more to your health story. 

Your genes can provide valuable insights about your predispositions, but lab tests help to show the current health effects of your genes, environment and lifestyle.

At SelfDecode, we offer the ability to upload and track 1000+ blood and lab tests. You’ll be able to see which results are out of optimal range and receive recommendations to help you get your levels where they need to be. 

We also provide environmental and lifestyle assessments to measure the impact of your environment.

Bringing together DNA, labs and lifestyle is the key to getting a complete picture of your health.

How do you know if your data is safe?

That’s exactly what I’ll be talking about in the next blog post! And I think there are some things I’m going to tell you that will shock you.

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About the Author

Joe Cohen, BS

Joe Cohen, BS

As a kid, Joe suffered from inflammation, brain fog, fatigue, digestive problems, mood and other issues that were poorly understood in both conventional and alternative medicine. Frustrated by the lack of good information and tools, Joe decided to embark on a journey of self-experimentation and self-learning to improve his health--something that has since become known as “biohacking”. With thousands of experiments and pubmed articles under his belt, Joe founded SelfHacked, the resource that was missing when he needed it. SelfHacked now gets millions of monthly readers. Joe is a thriving entrepreneur, author and speaker. He is the CEO and founder of SelfDecode. His mission is to help people gain access to the most up-to-date, unbiased, and science-based ways to optimize their health.

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