If the past year has brought you struggles with nutrition or weight management, you’re not alone. Effects of the pandemic, quarantines, and virtual schooling have only increased America’s staggering 42% obesity rate. But finding an appropriate diet that works can be challenging. High protein diets work for some but make others sick. How do you know the best regimen for you?
While the concept of creating a personalized diet based on your genetic code may sound strange and futuristic, DNA-based health and wellness companies have recently exploded in a market targeting those seeking weight loss and better nutrition. And while the effectiveness of these diets is debated, their popularity continues to skyrocket.
We investigated Gene Food, one of the newest companies offering a genetic analysis to provide you with personalized diet and lifestyle suggestions for better health. Could Gene Food be your solution? Read our full review below to discover the details of this innovative company and determine if Gene Food can provide the best diet for your health.
- Offers personalized DNA-based diet suggestions
- Presents individualized recipes built upon your assigned diet type
- Analysis of cannabis, caffeine, and alcohol traits that include recommended daily intake
- Informative, science-based website
- All genetic testing occurs in a San Diego-based CLIA certified lab
- For lower cost, you can upload raw DNA files from 23andMe or Ancestry.com
- Pricier than other DNA-based diet services
- DNA-based diets are not always effective because many factors contribute to weight
- Does not take into account food allergies, illness, or other physical factors
DNA-based dietary services may be a touchy subject among nutritionists, but in our examination of Gene Food, we found its scientific research compelling and its reports detailed and informative. Not all DNA-based nutritional companies are the same, after all, and Gene Food proves this by analyzing over 120 genetic factors affecting diet, weight management, and lifestyle. Gene Food’s report gives you more comprehensive feedback on more dietary aspects than its competitors, even including your suggested intake of caffeine, alcohol, and cannabis. In short, if you’re looking to try out a genetic dietary regimen, we recommend Gene Food above the competition.
Gene Food’s DNA analysis helps you choose a diet plan by identifying how your body responds to various dietary factors.
Gene Food analyzes genes related to nutrient absorption and presents you with a report detailing the best diet for your particular genome. You will receive a custom diet plan categorizing you under one of twenty diet types, from Paleo to Vegetarian.
Innerbody Research recently celebrated its 20-year anniversary online. Over the past two decades, we have helped tens of millions of readers make more informed decisions involving staying healthy and living healthier lifestyles.
We extensively test each health service we review. We try our best to give you, our readers, an unbiased exploration of at-home health services, free of marketing jargon or gimmicks. We evaluate the service based on our adherence to quality, the latest medical evidence and health standards, and a simple question: would we buy the product or service ourselves if it weren’t part of our job, and would we recommend it to family and friends?
Additionally, this review of Gene Food, like all health-related content on this website, was thoroughly vetted by one or more members of our Medical Review Board for accuracy.
Founded in 2016 by health entrepreneur John O’Connor and San Francisco physician Dr. Steven Brody, Gene Food is a health and wellness company providing dietary and nutritional advice based on DNA analysis. You can purchase a DNA test from Gene Food and send it to its CLIA-certified lab for analysis, or you can send in raw DNA data from 23andMe or Ancestry.com.
Gene Food’s team of researchers, led by head geneticist Dr. Aaron Gardner, takes your DNA and feeds it into a proprietary algorithm that categorizes your genetic predisposition into one of 20 diet types. Unlike companies that analyze only a handful of genetic factors, Gene Food examines over 120 to determine your ideal diet type. Below, you’ll find several of the factors that Gene Food takes into its analysis and nutrition report.
Gene Food asserts that DNA analysis plays a useful role in helping you choose a diet plan by identifying how your body responds to fat, carbs, caffeine, and other nutrients. Additionally, Gene Food advises its customers about predispositions for coronary heart disease and other issues and informs them of foods to choose and avoid to lower risks.
If you keep in mind that genetics make up only one portion of what you should consider when developing a personal nutrition plan, we believe that assertion to be valid.
How does it work?
The term “nutrigenomics,” first coined in 2001, is a science that studies the relationship between health, nutrition, and the human genome. Nutrigenomics today has developed into a quickly expanding health and wellness market aimed at helping customers attain better nutrition and dietary management through an analysis of their DNA. It may sound preposterous, but if you look at traits within your own family, you’ll likely see several inheritable characteristics passed through generations. The same applies if you look at your ethnological heritage.
Gene Food requires a sample of your DNA, either from a swab that you send to its lab or from raw data that you submit; this latter method is an option if you’ve tested with Ancestry.com or 23andMe.
Then Gene Foods analyzes multiple genes related to nutrient absorption and overall health and presents you with a report detailing the best diet for your particular genome. In the end, the company categorizes your needs into one of its 20 diets and presents a detailed analysis of how your body reacts to certain foods.
It’s important to remember – and Gene Food is clear in cautioning on its website – that DNA is only one factor in personalized nutrition regimens. Some in the scientific community argue that genetics play a minor role in dietary success. Keep in mind that factors like stress, anxiety, abnormal sleep patterns, illness, and others play a critical role in your health and wellness as well. However, Gene Food can give you insight into how much your genetic predisposition may affect your relationship with food, weight management, and overall health. When optimizing your nutritional approach, every angle is valuable.
Your full report from Gene Food covers many genetic factors affecting your diet. The report gives you feedback on foods you should avoid due to specific genes and others that you should embrace. Below are just a few of the primary areas of the report and what they reveal:
- Sodium: This section of the report examines how your body processes sodium and gives feedback on how sodium levels affect nerve and muscle function.
- Sleep: Gene Food gives feedback on DNA factors that may affect your sleep and offers insights on improving your sleep health.
- Caffeine and Alcohol: Have you wondered how your particular genome metabolizes caffeine and alcohol? This section gives feedback on how much of each you should consume.
- Cannabis: Gene Food is currently the only nutrigenomics company out there that gives insights on your genetic predisposition for processing cannabis and suggestions for consumption amounts.
- Blood Sugar: This analysis determines what types of carbohydrates are most appropriate for your diet.
- Plant Protein: You can gain information about what percentage of protein you should be getting from plant sources.
- Protein Metabolism: This section explains how your body reacts to dairy, histamine, and plant proteins.
- Macronutrients: This area explains the best fat to carbs ratio for your personal diet.
- Supplements: Gene Food offers suggestions for vitamins and supplements you might be lacking based on your DNA profile.
- Detox: This part of the report looks at how your body processes environmental toxins.
- All About Fat: In this section, you’ll find information on fat metabolism and HDL to LDL ratios (good cholesterol vs. bad cholesterol). The report explains how these levels relate to your DNA and what fats should be avoided.
Gene Food assigns you one of 20 different diet types tailored to genetic traits based on your DNA analysis. These diets include:
California Keto, Urban Grazer, Mosaic, Paleo Plus, Modified Paleo, Trainer, Pegan, Pescetarian, Agrarian, Nordic, Mediterranean, Hunter Gatherer, Forager, California Coastal, Vegetarian, Okinawan, Villager, Lean Machine, Wayoan, West Angelino
For instance, one of our testers’ reports advised that the Mediterranean diet was ideal for her. This diet is characterized by high vegetable, whole grain, fruit, and nut consumption; moderate protein consumption with a focus on fish and seafood; and using olive oil. While the Mediterranean diet has been advised for broad swaths of the population by nutritionists, this report from Gene Foods detailed reasons why the diet was appropriate for our tester based on her genetic data. For instance, she lacked celiac or gluten sensitivity, meaning that the Mediterranean diet’s incorporation of good quality bread was not an issue (which she embraced).
The report details your diet’s main components (low-carb, low protein, etc.), what foods should predominate your daily food intake, and suggestions for lifestyle changes to improve wellness. It also includes a recommended shopping list and recipes to get you started on your health journey.
Unlike some nutrigenomics companies, Gene Food sells its products on a one-off basis without ongoing subscription costs. In addition to your detailed personalized diet plan, you’ll have access to the Nutrigenic Health Coaching service, which costs $175 per hour. We’ve detailed Gene Food’s two products below.
Gene Food DNA Test
$185 but currently selling for $165
If you do not have access to raw DNA data from 23andMe or Ancestry.com, Gene Food now offers a DNA kit of its own. You simply order a test kit, provide a saliva sample, and return it to Gene Food’s CLIA-certified, HIPAA-compliant genetics lab in San Diego. The advantage of submitting a DNA kit from Gene Food is that it offers more coverage for the genes used to calculate your score. The plan’s two drawbacks are the higher cost and the longer turnaround time to get your results.
Your report with the Gene Food DNA Test is the same as a report for the raw data submission, except that some “bonus genes” may appear in your analysis. Gene Food lays out your recommended personalized diet and foods that may interfere with your health. It examines your genes related to protein, fat, and carbohydrate metabolism, the MTHFR gene, sulfur, histamine, lactose tolerance, and wheat tolerance, among others.
Custom Nutrition Plan for 23andMe and Ancestry.com Users
$95 but currently selling for $79.99
If you have previously submitted a DNA sample to 23andMe or Ancestry.com, you can access your raw data through those sites and submit it to Gene Food for analysis. This method of submission is fast, with results returned to you in just five minutes.
Gene Food takes your data and analyzes your genes for protein, fat, and carbohydrate metabolism, as well as the MTHFR gene (associated with variance and mutations), sulfur, histamine, lactose tolerance, wheat tolerance, and more.
Your full report includes your recommended diet type and nutrition plan, along with a detailed examination of the meaning behind each finding.
A note on insurance, HSA, and FSA
Gene Food does not accept HSA, FSA, or health insurance for its products or services.
Submitting raw DNA files
The process for submitting raw DNA files from 23andMe or Ancestry.com is easy and has a fast turnaround for results.
Download your raw DNA data. Access your account on 23andMe or Ancestry.com and download your raw DNA data to your computer.
Go to Gene Food’s website. On the Gene Food website, click on the prominent link in the upper right that says “Upload Raw DNA Data”.
Upload your data. Click the “Choose File” link to upload your data, accept the company’s terms and conditions, and fill in the brief form with your name and contact information.
Enter payment information. Gene Food accepts major credit cards and PayPal.
Review your report. Uploading raw DNA data to Gene Foods means that your analysis should arrive within approximately five to ten minutes. Go through your detailed report to begin your new health journey.
Ordering a Gene Food DNA Test
To order a Gene Food DNA Test kit, begin on the company’s website:
Order your DNA kit. After entering your name and email address, you’ll next fill out your payment information and billing address.
Register your test. Once you’ve received your DNA test kit in the mail, register it on the site.
Collect a saliva sample. The kit includes a swab for saliva collection.
Return your kit to the lab. After collecting your sample, return it to Gene Food’s CLIA certified, HIPAA compliant genetics lab in San Diego for analysis.
Await results. Within three to four weeks, you should receive an email notification from Gene Food stating that your report is ready.
Access your report. You will receive your report via email and will be able to access it temporarily on your account.
Begin your diet. Your personalized diet regimen comes with a 14-day meal plan with personalized recipes and even a shopping list to help you get started hassle-free.
Privacy is a significant concern when it comes to submitting genetic data, and Gene Food holds it as a top priority. All of Gene Food’s genetics data servers are secured through an encrypted connection. These servers are compliant with HIPAA (Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act) standards, and its genetics web applications run on Amazon Web Services. Gene Food’s genetics laboratory in San Diego, California, is CLIA certified. Gene Food does not store any genetic data long-term from customers on its server after it has processed nutrition plans. The company never shares any personal data with third parties.
At Innerbody Research, we customize our evaluation criteria depending on the type and nature of the health-related service or product. For Gene Food and other health services, we have five areas that we use for our evaluations, including:
Quality: How well does the company deliver its core service(s) to the customer? For testing services, does the company adhere to the latest and most advanced testing technologies and achieve a very high degree of accuracy? For non-testing telehealth services, is the quality of the service high enough that we would recommend it to loved ones without hesitation? If not, why not?
User-friendly: How intuitive and user-friendly is the service? Does the device, program, app, or website achieve a good degree of user-friendliness for its customers?
Value: Are you getting your money’s worth? Are there any hidden costs or charges? Does the company offer discounts?
Privacy: If health data is stored, will your data be stored securely? Are payments secure?
Customer support: Particularly in situations where ‘one size fits all’ doesn’t make sense, how well does the company help to make the service ideal for you?