A number of companies offering direct-to-consumer genetic testing have
cropped up in the past two years to capitalize on these advances, from 23andMe and Navigenics, which offer genome-wide scans to identify specific disease-linked genetic variations, to Knome,
which offers whole-genome sequencing to the wealthy. Any doubts that
personal genomics is making its way into the mainstream can be assuaged
with a look at Interleukin genetics, a startup that sells genetic tests
for heart-disease risk, B vitamin metabolism, and other factors through
Amway, the direct-sales company. “With minimal advertising, these
companies have captured the imagination of the public,” says Robert Green, a neurologist at Boston University and one of the conference organizers. “The public is eager to know more about genetics.” [my emphasis]
What sort of tests are Amway selling? Here’s the low-down:
Heart Health Genetic Test looks for a particular variation in the IL1
gene that is associated with excess inflammation – which is associated
with an increased risk for heart disease.
General Nutrition Genetic Test identifies differences in how your body
metabolizes important nutrients, including B vitamins and antioxidants.
(From here.) Here’s a hint for potential customers: one marker in one gene is not a useful predictor for heart disease risk, and any test that speaks vaguely about “identifying differences” without specifying what those differences are should be treated with extreme caution.
(Added in edit: In the comments, Interleukin Genetics’ Erin Walsh disputes my claim that the test literature “speaks vaguely” about the variants tested; but while it is indeed possible to find more information on the Interleukin Genetics website, it’s difficult or impossible to get this information from the Amway site selling their tests. See my comment below for responses to other points raised by Walsh.)
I found these adjacent segments from the FAQ amusing:
Do Gensona Genetic Tests tell me which supplements I need?
No. The Gensona Genetic Tests do not recommend any supplements. Gensona
Tests are tools to help you understand your risk of certain diseases
and conditions. The tests do not include any supplement recommendations.
Now that I know my genetic test results, what should I do to get a supplement recommendation?
Enter your genetic test results in the Health Questionnaire tests
result modules, obtain your personalized supplement recommendation, and
order your Customized Packets.
Can I buy my gene test and Customized Packets using the same cart?
No. You can place your Gensona Genetic Test order along with your regular Quixtar order. But Customized Packets are packaged exclusively for you at Nutrilite in Buena Park, California. Your Customized Packets are sent separately, by FedEx Ground, to ensure timely delivery.
I guess they want to steer well clear of that classic danger sign, advertising supplements tailored to specific genetic test results (note: any company that tries to do this is scamming you, pure and simple), so they’ve gone to great lengths to separate the test results from the supplement recommendations while encouraging customers to move directly from one to the other.
These are the types of tests that give direct-to-consumer genetic testing a bad name; careful regulation that punishes these bottom-feeders while leaving scientifically supported tests intact (i.e. the major personal genomics companies) is long overdue.