What Is embodyDNA?
Created in partnership with Helix, Lose It!’s embodyDNA testing service claims to help you learn how your genetics affect your weight loss, fitness, nutrition, and food sensitivities, and then deliver personalized recommendations that can help you shed pounds.
Specifically, the company tells us you’ll be able to learn how your body responds to nutrients and how you can adjust your diet to fit your specific needs, as well as how to optimize your exercise routines based on your genetic makeup. Similarly, you’ll also gain insight into how your genes impact your taste, allowing you to choose a diet best suited to your needs.
After ordering your DNA kit from Helix, you’ll mail back a small saliva sample. In six to eight weeks, you’ll be able to access your results through the Lose It! iOS and Android app, as well as track calories and meals to find out where you’ve been on track, and those areas where you might need some improvement.
Together, Lose It!’s 30 million users have shed over 50 million pounds, although this figure does not include embodyDNA numbers, since it is a brand new product.
What’s the Link Between embodyDNA, Lose It!, and Helix?
With so many names being thrown around, we thought the embodyDNA website felt like an exercise in branding. To help avoid potential confusion later on, let’s quickly lay out the different entities involved here:
Founded in 2015, Helix is a personal genomics company who sequences DNA (more about this next) in their CLIA-certified and CAP accredited lab. In addition, the company offers a variety of other DNA-based products intended to do everything from reveal your ancient family history to provide personalized art prints. These can be ordered without having to provide another saliva sample.
From there, embodyDNA is a product of Lose It!, created in partnership with Helix, that offers insight into the relationship between your genetics and weight loss.
However, Lose It! is a third-party iOS and Android app owned by FitNow, Inc. based out of Boston, MA and founded in 2008. By partnering with Helix, this is what translates data and provides quick access to all the data you’ll use during the embodyDNA program.
With this foundation to work with, next, we’ll now start diving in to how the embodyDNA program works.
What Is DNA Sequencing?
There’s no need to bore you to tears here, but we do need to briefly discuss some foundational principles mentioned on the embodyDNA site, which can help you make a more empowered buying decision.
According to the U.S. National Library of Medicine’s Genetics Home Reference, deoxyribonucleic acid, or DNA, is defined as “a self-replicating material present in nearly all living organisms as the main constituent of chromosomes. It is the carrier of genetic information.”
This information is coded in a series of chemical bases: adenine (A), guanine (G), cytosine (C), and thymine (T). These bases then pair up with one another, and the specific sequences these base pairs appear in determines “information available for building and maintaining an organism, similar to the way in which letters of the alphabet appear in a certain order to form words and sentences.”
Believe it or not, over 99 percent of the DNA between individuals is the same, while the remaining differences account for all the various physical, mental, and emotional diversity among humans.
Now, using only a small sample of saliva or blood, modern technology allows us to view the precise order of these chemical base pairs in a strand of DNA through a process known as sequencing.
What Will You Learn from embodyDNA’s Sequencing & the Lose It! App?
The embodyDNA website tells us that most consumer genetics companies use a process called genotyping, which only reads the first few of these DNA base pairs. Comparatively, Helix’s proprietary Exome+ sequencing technology promises to read “every letter of all 22,000 protein-coding genes in your body, which produces 100 times more data.”
Then, this data is sent to the Lose It! app, which translates it into an analysis of unique weight loss challenges you face, along with actionable insight into questions like:
- Is your body efficiently handling the foods and drinks you’re consuming? Are you lactose or gluten intolerant? Should you restrict the amount of saturated fat in your diet? Do sugary beverages have more of an effect on you than others?
- Will your body respond better to a low-fat diet? Specifically, how does it respond to glucose?
- Are you deficient in any essential chemicals, like vitamin B12, vitamin B6, vitamin D, magnesium, omega-3s (specifically, EPA), sodium, or iron?
- How effective is exercise for your weight loss goals? Which genetics influence your BMI?
- Will endurance workouts deliver better results than shorter ones?
Finally, you’ll be able to reveal trends in your meal history, get customized feedback based your behaviors, and receive recommendations, such as “foods and drinks that can keep you on track to reach your goals.”
Inside the Lose It! app, embodyDNA customers will gain access to genetic information that could help them better lose weight. Image credit: embodyDNA.com
How Much Does embodyDNA Cost?
The embodyDNA program is only available to U.S. residents age 18 and older, for the following prices:
- embodyDNA (this product gives you access to the recommendations noted above): $109.99
- Helix DNA Kit (this is the saliva kit required to enter into the embodyDNA program) $80
- Lose It!: Free, although there appeared to be a variety of in-app purchases available, priced between $9.99 and $39.99
After placing your embodyDNA order, as long as you haven’t registered your kit, refunds are available within 30 days, less S&H fees and a $25 cancellation fee. In order to request one, you’ll need to reach out through the contact form on the company’s website.
Based on these prices, are customers reporting a solid value for the money?
Taking a Closer Look at embodyDNA & Lose It! App Reviews
While we encountered several articles on top-ranking sites like Digital Trends and Engadget covering the product’s initial release back in July 2017, most of these involved little more than high-level overviews and no hands-on feedback.
In fact, the only online review we found was on Climbing Nutrition, which concluded that:
“For the price of $190.00, there isn’t enough to EmbodyDNA to make it worthwhile. It can only inform you about some of the fine details, and even then it can’t tell you much more than your predispositions (which may or may not be accurate past the genetic level). If you need help losing weight, focus on the foundation first—the fine details will resolve themselves as you progress.”
Between iTunes and Google Play, the Lose It! app had nearly 100,000 user reviews at the time of our research, with about a four-star average rating. There, common compliments related to ease of use and effective weight loss results, although many complained about bugginess and inaccurate tracking.
However, none of the app reviews we encountered during our research specifically referenced the embodyDNA feature.
How does this compare to other genetic testing services?
embodyDNA vs. Other Genetic Sequencing Companies
As society cumulatively learns more about the human genome and the technology used to unlock the information it contains becomes increasingly affordable, dozens of genetic testing companies have sprung up. This includes the likes of (to name just a handful):
- TeloYears – Specializes in measuring telomere length and its relationship to aging
- Counsyl and Harmony Prenatal – Tests for more than 100 genetic diseases for family planning purposes
- 23andMe – Traces ancestry and lineage
- Color Genomics – Screens for cancers like breast, ovarian, colon, and pancreatic.
Specifically regarding the confluence of nutrition and genomics, in a field known as nutrigenomics, there are several other companies competing with embodyDNA, including:
Also uses Helix’s lab to sequence DNA, although they offer four different fitness and weight loss-related packages, which range in price between $199 and $299.
This as-yet-unreleased service claims to provide insight into many of the same data points as embodyDNA, including how your genetic makeup can impact your food choices and weight loss results. It will come with an accompanying app.
In the near future, the company plans to add skincare and dental care features.
How your body responds to different foods and nutrients based on your individual genetic profile. The company tests a total of 45 different genes and also offers an Athletic Performance product.
Unlike embodyDNA, this test must be conducted at local participating clinics and cannot be ordered solely online. No prices listed.
Uses saliva-based genetic testing to help you learn which type of training best fits you, when/what foods to eat, which supplements to take, and how your body reacts to different stimuli. Cost is $134.
Offers four different tests that focus on weight loss and disease prevention, including factors like bone health, muscular potential, carbohydrate metabolism, and physical activity and weight loss.
Only available for EU residents, prices ranged between 229€ and 299€.
With so many choices, how can you possibly decide which one is best for you?
Your Quick Reference Nutrigenomics Test Buyer’s Guide
After interviewing Dr. Annalise Swigert, a board-certified OB/GYN, in Direct-to-Consumer Genetic Testing Pros & Cons, we learned that no genetic test is comprehensive, although “most direct-to-consumer genetic test options claim 99% or greater accuracy.”
But does this accuracy necessarily translate into usable information? In other words, even with the more in-depth testing provided by embodyDNA, can you expect actionable advice that will help you better meet your fitness and weight loss goals, compared to other options?
Recently, Wired.com interviewed Eric Topol, a geneticist at Scripps Research Institute and a leader in the Precision Medicine Initiative, and asked him about whether or not gene-tailored diet and fitness regimens really work. He responded:
“Sequencing is great for sick people, but for healthy people there really isn’t any proof that it’s informative. Someday the science might be good enough, but at this moment it seems like it’s not going to yield much for people.”
Similarly, the Wired article referenced earlier notes that “If we find [these reports] useful, illuminating, and profound, we'll continue to feed them our DNA and follow their offerings. At best, it's an insightful way to live a better-optimized life. At worst, it's easier than eating grapefruits.”
But, they continued. “it’ll take time to get to a point where we can personally tailor a person’s wellness regimen to their DNA.”
What’s the Bottom Line About embodyDNA?
In our genetic testing pros and cons article referenced earlier, the professionals we interviewed recommended speaking with your doctor before ordering any genetics testing services. After all, some companies require your doctor’s approval before proceeding, while others—like embodyDNA—do not.
Then, if you’ve both determined one of these tests will be a valuable use of your time and money, we also learned that the majority of these companies are good. As such, the right one for you might largely come down to price and insurance coverage.
Other considerations to factor in are what the company does with your data, what kind of customer support is provided, and whether or not you have to maintain a subscription to access your data.
With all these details in mind, Helix’s website indicated users’ information remains private and secure, and they also offer a 30-day refund policy on their embodyDNA product, without any subscription requirements.
They’re also one of the only companies currently offering the ability to order multiple tests from a single saliva sample, although the only way to contact them is through an online form (no email or phone number).