TeloYears Reviews - Health and Ancestry DNA Testing

By: Laura Ryan, PhD
Last Updated: April 05, 2018

TeloYears DNA Test Co-founded by Dr. Elizabeth Blackburn, who won the Nobel Prize in 2009 for her studies of telomeres, TeloYears offers DNA ancestry testing as well as a very unique approach to health testing. Rather than looking for genetic variants that could indicate higher risk for certain diseases and health conditions, TeloYears looks at an entirely different component of your DNA—telomeres—to provide information about your biological age (which can be different from your chronological age).

Review Summary

Pros

  • One of two major testing companies to offer both ancestry and health DNA testing
  • CLIA-certified
  • Fully actionable health information, meaning that you can use it to improve your health starting right away
  • The only company that aims to reveal your biological age
  • Built-in privacy of sensitive health data
  • Uses next-generation DNA sequencing

Cons

  • Regional granularity isn’t as good as 23andMe or AncestryDNA (with the notable exception of East Asia)
  • TeloYears health test not yet available in the State of New York
  • Maryland residents need an additional form completed by their healthcare provider
  • No genealogical community

Bottom Line

TeloYears is a great company for giving you a unique perspective on your health—one that you can actually use in order to get healthier. They also offer above-par DNA ancestry testing at a decent price—particularly good if you believe you have East Asian ancestry—but you’ll have to take your ancestry results elsewhere in order to connect with relatives or other genealogy enthusiasts.

TeloYears Rating by

4.5 stars for health testing (3 ½ stars for serious genealogists)

Reviewed on

Pricing and Options

TeloYears offers several product options:

TeloYears health report

This retails for $99 (see updated price), plus shipping and handling. It’s great for people who just want the health data and don’t feel that they will need personalized advice (or plan to consult with their healthcare provider).

TeloYears + TeloCoach

A $199 (see updated price) package that includes the TeloYears health report plus the TeloCoach feature (more on that below). Great for people who want help developing an action plan based on their results and lifestyle.

Advanced Ancestry

Their ancestry DNA test kit costs $99 (see updated price), for those who don’t want to take the health test but want to learn about their ethnic heritage.

TeloYears + Advanced Ancestry

For $169 (see updated price), you can buy both the standard health test and the ancestry test (does not include TeloCoach). The best of both worlds.

Discounts

Because TeloYears health reports provide health information that encourages you to make life adjustments in order to improve, customers often like to re-test. There’s a discount for that! If you want to use the “Now and Later” option, you can buy two TeloYears health tests for $30 off, or $169. The company recommends that you take the first test, examine your results, and then take the second test six months or a year later, in order to see the results of your lifestyle changes.

Currently there are no other discounts offered by TeloYears, but seasonal discounts are very common when it comes to home DNA test kits, so your best bet is to check the latest price. Holiday discounts are particularly common as shoppers look for good gift ideas.

Why TeloYears Testing Works

You may remember a little about telomeres from high school biology. Even if you do remember them, though, you may not know exactly what they can tell you about your health and how the testing actually works.

Telomeres

Think of telomeres as tiny protective caps at the end of your chromosomes (threadlike strands of DNA). TeloYears itself suggests we think of the plastic caps at the end of shoelaces.

Every cell in your body contains your DNA; otherwise, for one thing, the cell wouldn’t contain your necessary genetic coding for it to replicate and pass along to new cells when a cell divides. This would be a major problem! And every strand of DNA has a telomere at each end it.

The cells in our body divide to produce new cells; this cell division occurs until cells reach a state of ‘senescence’, which means they can no longer replicate. But why?

Well, each time a cell divides, a full replica of your DNA is donated to the new cell, BUT… the little telomeres don’t fully replicate. Instead, a little bit of their substance is lost with each replication. This means your telomeres are getting shorter as a natural process of cellular aging, in a way.

And that’s what ‘senescence’ actually is, for a cell; your telomeres get too short for cell division to occur anymore. TeloYears Telomeres

Actionable Information

The thing is, natural cell division isn’t the only process that shortens your telomeres. Lots of other things do this as well—stress, diet, fatigue and lack of exercise, to name a few.

And not only that, but evidence suggests that lifestyle decisions can slow the telomere-shortening process down, just as they can accelerate it; this is a two-way street. In other words, if you develop a plan to introduce positive changes in your lifestyle—maybe improving your diet, finding better ways to manage stress, and so forth—you can slow down your cell aging. It’s a great way to look at overall health and make improvements, because it’s measurable! That’s how TeloYears can rightly claim to offer actionable health test results. You can use them in order to shave years off of your biological age.

DNA Sequencing vs. Genotyping

At the risk of sounding too wonky… there’s an important difference between genotyping and new-generation DNA sequencing. Both are methods used in order to analyze your DNA and produce test results. Other DNA test companies use genotyping, but TeloYears is proud that they use DNA sequencing instead. Why is this a matter of pride?

If you think of your DNA like a really detailed book, then:

  • Genotyping would be scanning the pages looking for specific words in specific places. If the word “Titanic” appears in the second paragraph of the second page and “James Cameron” appears on that same page, then maybe we know something important about this page of text.
  • Sequencing, however, collects chunks of text and whole sentences from that page and throughout the book.

Why is this important? It allows TeloYears (a company without the largest database) to provide more granular ethnicity regions than Family Tree DNA, for instance, so clearly the method has merits. But it’s possibly more important when it comes to future study of DNA results. To continue with the “pages in a book” metaphor, genotyping can look for words that we know to be significant now, but what about all the words that will prove to be significant only later? Genetic science advances in leaps and bounds seemingly every year; it’s almost certain that we’ll know far more in a few years than we do now. So in that sense, your TeloYears data could have a longer, more meaningful shelf-life than other data.

Submitting Your DNA

Once you fill out their online form, TeloYears gets to work. If you order a health test kit, TeloYears consults with a doctor to confirm you are a suitable candidate for the test (if you’re taking the ancestry testing only, this step doesn’t happen). Then they mail your kit and it arrives in the mail within a week of ordering (ours arrived sooner than a week).

After that, you simply follow the instructions in the kit, waiting the required amount of time after eating. Unlike other big at-home DNA testing companies, TeloYears uses blood in order to get results. This is because there are tens of thousands of cells in a single droplet of blood, making results potentially more accurate. Simply give your finger a tiny prick and collect the droplet of blood. Don’t worry, it’s painless and easy—no different than when a diabetic person checks blood glucose levels.

After collecting the drop or two of blood, mail the kit back in the pre-paid envelope. You’ll get results of the health test in 3-4 weeks, while the ancestry test requires the typical 6-8 weeks delivery time. For us, the deliveries fell early within those windows.

A Couple Complications to Note

  • You have to be between the (chronological!) ages of 20 and 80 in order to take the TeloYears test.
  • You can’t order it at all in New York State.
  • If you live in Maryland, you’ll need your healthcare provider to fill out another form for you to submit in order to get the kit.

Reports and Features

1

TeloYears Report

If you opt for the health test by itself, your test results will arrive within 4 weeks. They will contain a straightforward report summarizing your results, along with their “Blueprint for Aging Well”. The summary of the health test tells you your average telomere length as well as how that value compares to the overall average telomere length of people your age and gender. Then based on these details, it gives you your age in TeloYears, which is the indicator of your biological age as opposed to chronological age. Your TeloYears age might be lower than your chronological age, or higher, or roughly the same.

The Blueprint is a packet of information explaining the science behind this form of testing as well as the actionable steps that you can take to address lifestyle factors that evidence suggests play a role in telomere length and biological age. You can answer the standard questionnaire in order to steer yourself toward the most fruitful paths for improving your biological age.

TeloYears Reporting

2

TeloYears + TeloCoach

The results of this package will include all of what you receive from the standard TeloYears kit, but additionally you benefit from a scheduled one-on-one meeting with a TeloYears health coach. This is actually very valuable, because the Blueprint you otherwise receive is not tailored to you personally. The health coach listens to you, learning about your lifestyle, and then gives you the best advice about how to make the most meaningful improvements. Essentially, this tailors your improvement plan specifically to you, for maximum benefit. If you don’t opt to include TeloCoach, be sure to discuss the results of your health test with your healthcare provider in order to gain this level of insight.

3

Advanced Ancestry Report

Their ancestry test results take longer to arrive than their health results—6 to 8 weeks. You can learn a lot of fascinating information, though! Pie charts break down your ethnic heritage. Multiple organized levels of ethnicity regions allow for better contextual understanding and ease of browsing through your results. Advanced Ancestry reports also include information about your maternal and paternal haplogroups, along with historical migration patterns mapped out for you.

Other Considerations

Privacy

One thing that kind of sets TeloYears apart from competitors is that their proprietary methods don’t reveal any medical or health information you’d prefer be kept private. They obviously protect all your data from privacy breaches, but even if all of the raw data were somehow exposed, nobody could use it to gain any insight into your disease risks, etc. There would be nothing sensitive to gain. Beyond that, they vow never to share you data with a third party.

Regional Reporting

The regional breakdown of their autosomal (ethnic heritage) ancestry reporting can’t compete across the board with AncestryDNA or 23andMe, who far exceed 100 regions in their reporting. But TeloYears does a better job than FTDNA with their regions. And when it comes to heritage in certain parts of the world, such as East Asia, TeloYears positively excels compared to all of them. Don’t just settle for “East Asian” or even “Chinese” or “Japanese”; find out how much of your ethnic heritage is Oroqen, Mongolian, Hezhen or the many other possibilities.

Genealogical Community

In this case, TeloYears doesn’t compete at all, and it’s important for you to be aware of this before buying. For serious genealogical pursuits, you’ll want to take your ancestry data from here and upload it to a third party database, where you’ll be able to connect with others who have taken similar tests elsewhere.

Data Exportability

Thankfully, TeloYears makes it easy for you to export your ancestry DNA results, allowing you to compensate for their lack of a support community.

TeloYears vs. 23andMe

It stands to reason that people will compare these two companies, because no other big company offers a combination of health and ancestry reporting. If your sole interest is ancestry, you’d probably be better off with a different company than either of these.

So how does TeloYears hold up to comparison with its chief rival? Let’s find out!

Health Testing

When it comes to health reports, maybe you should order both? The thing is, their approaches to health testing are radically different, but both are useful.

  • 23andMe offers what many would consider to be the traditional approach, if you will—insight into your personal genetic health risks based on variants found in your DNA, as well as whether you are a carrier of certain recessive genes that could potentially pose health risk to your children, if your partner also is a carrier.
  • Meanwhile, TeloYears takes a totally different approach; they don’t delve into that, but instead tell you about your average health at the cellular level, whether your keeping pace with your chronological age or are actually older or younger in a very meaningful, biological sense.

Both provide valuable information. Which path you find more rewarding is a matter of preference; some find the TeloYears information to be actually more useful for making life changes that improve their health picture.

Ancestry Testing

When it comes to ancestry reports, 23andMe has a clearer edge…with one notable exception.

Regions

23andMe offers more regional granularity in their ethnic heritage reports, except when it comes to East Asia (which is a pretty major population area). TeloYears claims that this is a result of smart database-curating along with the next-generation DNA sequencing that TeloYears uses, as opposed to the traditional genotyping of 23andMe and other companies.

Community

23andMe doesn’t have much of a genealogical community, so they’re similar in that sense.

Deep Ancestry

23andMe offers the three traditional ancestry tests—yDNA, mtDNA and autosomal—while TeloYears offers just their one ancestry test. However, their genome-wide DNA sequencing methodology combined with their curated database allows them to give the broad ethnicity details while also diving into your maternal and paternal haplogroups. And both companies charge the same price. We found the outcomes to be equally edifying. But both tests left us wanting to connect with others in a community to continue our learning.

Bottom Line: Which One to Choose?

You may not like the answer, but it’s a toss-up, a matter of personal preference boiling down to which types of health information you find more useful and meaningful. If your real interest is strictly health testing, and you can afford the price tags, you would gain the fullest health information possible by taking both the TeloYears test and the 23andMe health test package; they are not at all redundant, and both are informative. And since you have to buy the 23andMe ancestry package in order to buy their health test, you could skip TeloYears’ ancestry test and stick to their health offering.

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