Come for the genealogy, stay for some health and diet advice. Or, if you prefer, come for health and diet advice, stay for some genealogy. That’s the basic premise behind the DNA kit offered by Vitagene Inc. Nutrition and ancestry might seem like a curious blend, but the kit is designed to harness the power of science for wellness and ancestral learning.
Customers considering the Vitagene kit should spend some quality time on the Vitagene web site. The Vitagene products seem to be marketed more toward those interested in health and wellness more than people wanting to unearth their ancestral heritage. Part of the Vitagene platform offers customized nutrition supplements based on data gleaned from the DNA test. Of course the supplements (vitamins, etc.) are an extra, ongoing cost. Genealogy buffs might find Vitagene more of a paid sales pitch for vitamins than a key to unlocking ancestral history. It helps to know exactly what you’re going in for.
The cost of the Vitagene kit is competitive with other leading DNA kits, costing $99 for the health and ancestry report version. The $99 kit includes ancestry information, and a detailed report with recommendations for fitness, diet and recommended supplements. For an extra $50, you can get a one-month supply of the “smart supplements.” For $249, you get the DNA test and reports, plus a three-month supply of supplements.
The “smart supplements” are a personalized regimen of pills, based on the DNA test, lifestyle factors, medications and medical history. “We reference the latest research from our carefully vetted scientific database to make sure you get the supplements that are safe, effective and optimal for you,” the website states. Supplements come as a 30-day supply in sealed daily packs.
The Vitagene DNA collection kit comes in a tidy box about the size of a Whitman’s chocolate sampler. The enclosed fold-out brochure includes clear step-by-step instructions with illustrations. The kit uses plastic cheek swabs with bristle tips to collect samples for DNA extraction. The instructions recommend swabbing inside each cheek for 60 seconds. That’s two minutes of swabbing for each of the two swabs. After completing the swabs, insert the tip into the tiny vial of preservative solution and snap it off at the indicated black line. Screw on the cap and shake the vial for five seconds. Repeat with the second swab. Drop the completed vials into the travel bag, drop it back into the box and mail it to the lab. I found the box a bit stiff and it did not close fully, so I secured the flap with shipping tape.
Vitagene says it takes 4-6 weeks to generate the DNA reports. The Ancestry Report provides an estimate of your ethnic heritage based on 24 global regions. It does not include DNA relative matching, so if you’re looking to find new cousins based on DNA testing, you’ll want to look at a genealogy-based kit such as AncestryDNA, Family Tree DNA or 23andMe.
The Nutrition Report analyzes things like obesity risk, sensitivity to lactose and gluten, alcohol metabolism, emotional eating, sodium intake and more. Vitagene promises recommendations to help each person reach their health goals. The Exercise Report uses the DNA results to analyze muscle strength, blood pressure response, muscle cramps and other factors. It provides optimal recommended physical activities. Finally, the Supplementation Report outlines which nutritional deficiencies are most likely, and it provides a personalized supplement plan.
The Vitagene DNA kit is much more about lifestyle and health than ancestral history or genealogy. It should appeal to consumers looking to live healthier lives. Be aware of the long-term costs if you decide to start taking the customized daily vitamins. Consumers comfortable with this concept will get the most from the Vitagene system. Those who don’t want to shell out monthly cash for vitamins will still get good health advice. Serious genealogy buffs can get a good health education, but they won’t find the depth and breadth of genetic genealogy offered by other companies.