SelfDecode Reviews

Find out how SelfDecode’s gene sequencing and analysis work together to give you actionable, personalized health goals.

by
Last updated: Jan 16th, 2023

In this Review

Our Findings
Why you should trust us
How we evaluated SelfDecode
What is SelfDecode?
How does SelfDecode work?
Reports
SelfDecode Labs
Consultation Membership program
How much does SelfDecode cost?
Getting started with SelfDecode
Privacy efforts
HSA, FSA, and health insurance
Alternatives to SelfDecode: an overview
DNA services with action plans
Whole genome sequencing
At-home testing alternatives
FAQ about SelfDecode
Sources
SelfDecode reviews

Our Findings

Editor's Rating4.50

SelfDecode curates actionable strategies to improve your health based on clinical research for specific variants in your genome. They constantly update their offerings, providing you with weekly new reports, and bigger offerings like Ancestry and Nutrition & Fitness reports are added regularly. You’ll have the option to consult with genetic counselors and even order personalized supplements if you’re willing to pay, providing every resource you might need, though you may have to dig to find it all. Just don’t take your percentiles at face value: despite their strong science and evident research, not all of their summaries accurately portray your genetic risk.

Pros

  • Large database looks at more gene variants than most services

  • More in-depth health and wellness advice than competitors

  • Free trial with three reports if you already have genetic data

  • Full-service platform also considers lab blood testing and lifestyle data

  • Genetic counseling and health coaching available for a fee

  • Reports are straightforward and easy to understand

  • Custom supplements formulated based on your results

  • Strong focus on privacy

  • Save 10% using coupon code INNERBODY

Cons

  • Premium Insights plan not available for DNA uploads

  • Lab testing not available in Arizona, New Jersey, New York, or Rhode Island

  • Summaries and breakdowns don’t always align with your genetic risk profile

  • Can’t purchase a one-off health consultation without a Premium Insights plan

Our genes influence almost every aspect of our health. They can change everything from our ability to absorb nutrients to our susceptibility to degenerative diseases. And while you can observe medical changes (like your average blood sugar) or know your family history enough to identify what ailments you’re more likely to develop, you can’t predict the future without a bit of help. That’s where at-home genetic testing kits like SelfDecode aim to help. Depending on what company you use, you might learn a little bit more about yourself or find (and overcome) biological obstacles. So how does SelfDecode compare to your other options? Find out whether the self-described “most accurate DNA test on the market” can help you reach your goals while keeping your genetic data safe.

GREAT PICKS FROM SELFDECODE

Why you should trust us

Our testing team was one of the first to compare and assess at-home DNA health testing options, and that expertise carries through today. We’ve spent many hundreds of hours researching, testing, and comparing services across the DNA testing landscape. We’ve looked at everything from information-heavy genetic geekery to simple, sharable reports (and everything in between, like SelfDecode). We sampled their reports ourselves using our genetic data to help you understand what the company can do with yours. And for this review, we’ve referenced dozens of additional journals, studies, and trusted sources.

Innerbody Research has helped millions of readers over the past two decades make more informed decisions about staying healthy and living healthier lifestyles. Like all health-related content on this website, this review has been thoroughly vetted by members of our Medical Review Board for accuracy, and we monitor SelfDecode’s frequent developments to keep our content up-to-date.

How we evaluated SelfDecode

To ensure that you’re getting the best possible information that’s most relevant to your life, we judged SelfDecode in four major categories: privacy, cost, scientific accuracy, and how well you can apply their findings to your everyday life.

Overall, we found that SelfDecode offers as much (if not more) information for less money than most competitors. However, their prices and what you’ll get for your money aren’t always clear, so if you’re not careful, you might pay a lot more in the long run. Most of their focus lies in connecting you with clinically relevant scientific information to improve your long-term quality of life. So while you might not be able to explore your genome base-by-base or enter a health improvement competition like other DNA testing services, SelfDecode finds self-improvement strategies customized to your genes.

You have the option with SelfDecode to integrate just about every piece of health data (including DNA and lab tests) for deeper exploration and more opportunities for direct action. They offer many ways to integrate and track lab tests and lifestyle data. They are the only major at-home genetic testing company offering personalized supplements, health coaching, and (relatively hands-off) genetic counseling. And importantly, they have a solid commitment to privacy that outshines most other genetic companies.

Privacy

Rating: 9.5/10

Privacy is one of our most significant considerations for genetic testing services. Even with federal laws (such as GINA, the Genetic Information Nondiscrimination Act of 2008) to protect you from employment and health insurance discrimination, your genetic code is still intrinsically tied to your identity.¹ While you might be protected from discrimination, federal laws still put much of this security in genetic testing companies’ hands.

SelfDecode has a lot to say about their privacy efforts, for a good reason. Like most genetic testing companies, they won’t ever sell your data; unlike many companies, they explicitly state multiple times that you still own your data. They have an entire team of personnel dedicated to ensuring that your genetic code, stored anonymously on a better-than-bank encrypted third-party platform, is safe, and most employees will never have access to your personal information. And while they may use your information in research studies as aggregate and individual data points, it’s an opt-in process, not something you’ll be part of without your knowledge.

Importantly, SelfDecode is the only at-home DNA testing company currently on the market that uses HIPAA and its European equivalent, GDPR.

The only downside is that uploading data from another genetic testing company will almost certainly affect a clause in their privacy policy. By uploading your data to SelfDecode, you take full responsibility for anything that happens to that information; it’s no longer the original company’s problem. This means that if there’s a security failure with the initial genetic testing company, you won’t be able to take any action against it because you uploaded your information to SelfDecode. Policies vary from company to company, so check before uploading that file.

Scientific accuracy

Rating: 8.5/10

SelfDecode has done their research and wants you to know everything they’ve learned. However, their team recognizes that most people don’t have PhDs in genetics, so they’ve simplified this information into clear, easy-to-understand packets that are never patronizing and don’t make bold assumptions about what you might not know. However, even from an enthusiast’s point of view, it’s clear exactly how much time and effort SelfDecode puts into their research. Ultimately, that translates into highly accurate results (with the occasional exception).

Every single claim they make is backed by at least one valid, well-conducted clinical study and sometimes five or six. They’ve even created their own ranking scale to score this information, letting you know how the scientific community regards these findings. And while not every recommendation they make is clinically valid, they’re quick to point that out themselves. Their team has written both a white paper on their methodology² and a full-blown peer-reviewed journal article in 2022.³ They’ve also ensured that their models will work for people of all ethnicities, which many health-based DNA programs won’t take the time to do.

They frequently advertise their program as the most accurate at-home DNA test because of their use of machine learning and AI, but that’s where we found one lone error. Not every risk percentile estimation — how likely it is among the general population that a particular trait or health risk will affect you — was accurate based on the SNPs SelfDecode found. Don’t let that sway you, though: they’re 98% accurate and measure more than 750,000 different SNPs, which is more than just about every other at-home DNA test.

Real-life applications

Rating: 8/10

SelfDecode takes your genetic information, breaks it down, and presents it to you with hundreds of realistic steps you can take to improve your health based on your genetic probabilities. These steps include everything from zinc and cinnamon supplementation to talk therapy and exercise, and every report they create has specific recommendations personalized for you. Of course, they don’t deal in pharmacogenetics (medication), but they will provide recommendations across three categories:

  • Lifestyle (e.x., exercise, therapy, sleep)
  • Diet (e.x., anti-inflammatory diet, fiber, coffee)
  • Supplements (e.x., zinc, magnesium, omega-3 fatty acids)

You can also choose from several other strategies — such as personalized supplements, laboratory testing, and health coaching — offered by SelfDecode to build on these recommendations. However, these insights cost extra (typically between $100 and $200, either once or per month). While having so many strategies enriches their service dramatically above and beyond other DNA testing companies, these cost barriers make it more difficult for users to apply SelfDecode’s full potential to their lives.

That said, you can still gain a lot from SelfDecode’s report recommendations alone. All Health Reports come with between 10 and 25 recommendations. Most of these are high-quality, but SelfDecode still includes less-than-stellar recommendations, albeit lower on the list. They’re transparent about when their suggestions don’t have much (or any) clinical evidence they work, but it still makes us wonder why they include options in which they have little confidence.

Cost

Rating: 7/10

SelfDecode used to have a complicated and vague pricing structure with several moving parts requiring separate payments. However, in November 2022, they completely revamped their payment structure to simplify and streamline what you pay. They also increased their initial costs and limited your options. All that said, it’s still generally less expensive to use a simple plan through SelfDecode than your alternatives, and you’re likely to get more use out of it in the process.

You can either upload the raw data file from a previous DNA test or take a DNA test through SelfDecode. If you take their DNA test, you can choose between a lower-priced, somewhat restricted Health Insights plan and a higher-priced, detail-rich Premium Insights plan:

  • DNA upload, Health Insights plan: $99
  • DNA test, Health Insights plan: $199
  • DNA test, Premium Insights plan: $499

All plans, no matter how you get your information, require a $99 annual subscription fee after your initial test or upload. This isn’t uncommon for DNA testing services, especially those like Nebula, which regularly update with new reports. However, if you aren’t interested in getting any more reports, you can just pay the flat fee, download all of your information, and cancel the annual subscription before it processes. Their FAQ explicitly states that their service is not a one-time analysis or report, but there are ways around it if you don’t have the $99/year to spend.

SelfDecode used to offer both Health Insights and Premium Insights plans (for varying costs) for DNA uploads. This new measure was clearly implemented to get you to purchase one of their DNA test kits, but is disappointing for those of us who’ve done multiple DNA tests before.

Despite the moderately high price tag of that full-scale service, the most expensive parts of SelfDecode are still significantly less expensive than competitors that offer a similar scope, which can cost over $1,000 for lifetime access or repeat blood tests. No longer having an option to purchase a lifetime subscription means you’ll pay more over time. (Previously, lifetime access cost $297, or three years’ worth of annual fees.)

Here’s a quick breakdown showing how much (or little) you could pay for SelfDecode compared to some of the other leading genetic services.

What is SelfDecode?

SelfDecode is a genetic testing and analysis company. Founded in 2016, SelfDecode uses AI, your genes, and a slew of other health data points to help you uncover ways to stay well. They provide more than 200 analytical reports on your genetic health and traits to those who spring for their most expensive (and expansive) plans.

Alongside these reports, SelfDecode delivers personalized recommendations based on scientific studies about the health concern at large and your SNPs (single nucleotide polymorphisms), which are single mutations in your genes.⁴ They might recommend cognitive-behavioral therapy and CBD if you’re at high risk for anxiety and have specific SNPs on the FAAH gene, for example.⁵ (You can learn more about SNPs and other common genetic test lingo in our genetic testing FAQ.) Most of what SelfDecode offers in these recommendations are actionable steps to improve or safeguard your health, focusing more on self-improvement than just genetic analysis.

SelfDecode offers lab testing through a program called SelfDecode Labs, which lets you check in on your health. It can put any theoretical genetic concerns into context and guide you through the best steps for you. You can either upload previously gathered DNA files or collect a sample through SelfDecode; neither offer bonus features or other benefits other than saving a little money and not having to wait 6-8 weeks for DNA processing if you’ve already had it done before. You can also take surveys about your health habits to help their AI, Decody, learn associations between lifestyle choices, genetic risk, and lab data, which can help you get better recommendations.

They’ll help you develop an action plan to get you as healthy as possible based on your genetic potential and current health. This includes a Fitness and Nutrition report, which breaks down your ideal diet and exercise routines on a broad scale based on your predispositions. You can opt into a range of additional programs to support these goals, including:

  • Health coaching
  • One-time genetic counseling
  • Personalized supplements

However, these features cost a few hundred dollars on top of what you’ve already paid for your results.

If you opt for a more expensive Premium Insights plan, you’ll also get access to:

  • SelfDecode's blog, SelfHacked
  • A surprisingly thorough SNP database
  • SNP & Gene Explorer tool
  • A single one-on-one consultation with a health practitioner
  • Disease Predisposition Reports (in development but coming soon)
  • Ancestry reports (in development but coming soon)

How does SelfDecode work?

SelfDecode offers so many moving parts that it might be hard to track. However, at its core, SelfDecode is a genetic testing service that sequences your data. Scientists “sequence” data to find out the genetic information contained within a particular segment of DNA, including changes in a gene that could cause diseases or other health problems.⁶ These variants, called SNPs, also influence the kinds (and amounts) of proteins your body makes, your hair texture, how well your gut absorbs certain nutrients, and just about everything about you.

For this to work, they take your genetic information (through DNA in your saliva or previously-analyzed genetic code) and measure it, comparing specific genes at certain points across your chromosomes to dense databases to determine which SNP you have. These SNPs will provide insight into your health, allowing them to give reasonably accurate recommendations on what might improve your health. In cases where they can’t entirely identify every base pair in your DNA, they use genotype imputation, which helps the scientists accurately guess what should go there.⁷

While SelfDecode does not provide the sequencing depth of some whole-genome sequencing companies, such as Nebula Genomics or Sequencing, SelfDecode sequences more of the genome than their competitors. Their DNA testing kit sequences over 750,000 variants, while 23andMe tests around 650,000 variants.

To get started, you’ll either purchase a DNA kit or upload a raw file with your DNA. They’ll take DNA files from most major genetic companies, as long as it’s available in a VCF or WES file. (This is standard.)

Their DNA test offers two different plans — Health Insights and Premium Insights — which grant you access to more information and new programs. Here’s a chart breaking down the primary differences (and similarities) between the two.

In a November 2022 systemic update, SelfDecode completely changed their pricing structure and what they offer in both Health and Premium Insights, as well as what you get with a DNA upload. They cut several options for DNA uploads — including a Premium Insights plan and personalized blog posts, which are available with a DNA test kit but not an upload — to incentivize you to take their DNA test. Ultimately, their DNA lab analysis is highly accurate, but if you already have a DNA file from a previous test, it’s unlikely that you’ll get much more out of SelfDecode’s in-house test than a DNA upload unless you want either of the reports in development or a health consultation.

Reports

SelfDecode creates two kinds of reports: health and traits. Whether you upload genetic information gathered by another company or take a new sample, the company will generate more than 200 reports on your genetic tendencies. This is comparable to whole genome DNA tests like Nebula, which also offer about 200, but most DNA tests like InsideTracker (which has 29) and 23andMe (which has about 70) don’t come close.

Health Reports divulge information about things related to your health (from mental health to how your body processes different micronutrients). In contrast, Trait Reports give you information about your phenotypes or readily observable physical or behavioral traits. These reports are more akin to what you may have studied in high school biology class, such as your reaction to caffeine, the likelihood of balding, and whether or not you think cilantro tastes like soap.

Here’s the complete list of every health report you’ll get at the time of writing, organized by category. Some reports fit into more than one category, but we’ve listed them only in the first place they appear.

Brain

Anxiety, inflammation, stress, low mood, brain fog, attention, mood swings, psychological trauma, BDNF, addiction, alcohol addiction, tobacco addiction, DRD2 (dopamine), COMT (“warrior versus worrier”),⁸ obsessive-compulsive tendencies, and serotonin.

Heart & Blood Vessels

High blood sugar, heart health, high blood pressure, low blood pressure, high cholesterol, varicose veins, lipoprotein (a),⁹ palpitations, and artery hardening.

Hormones

Underactive thyroid, overactive thyroid, SHBG,¹⁰ testosterone, MDHEA,¹¹ oxytocin, estradiol, and cortisol.

Gut Health

Irritable bowel syndrome, gallstones, gut inflammation, acid reflux. H. pylori infection, peptic ulcers, celiac disease, C. difficile infection, hemorrhoids, appendicitis, indigestion, gastrointestinal infection, gut microbiome diversity, constipation, and fatty liver.

Diet & Nutrition

There are too many to list individually here, but this category includes vitamins A, B1, B2, B3, B6, B7, B9, B12, C, D, E, K; minerals (12); fats and fatty acids (11); amino acids and protein (16); food, mineral, and other allergies and sensitivities (12); MTHFR;¹² CoQ10; carnitine; carbohydrates; and eating disorders.

Sleep

Insomnia, sleep quality, sleep apnea, deep sleep, and daytime sleepiness.

Bone, Joint, & Muscles

Joint pain, joint inflammation, bone health, gout, and carpal tunnel syndrome.

Metabolic Health

Overweight, hypoglycemia, HbA1c, lactate, metabolic rate, longevity, insulin resistance, visceral fat, and ketone bodies.

Immune Function & Inflammation

Allergies, IL-6,¹³ IL-17,¹⁴ neutrophils, and yeast infection.

Kidneys & Urinary Tract

Kidney health, urinary tract infections, kidney stones, overactive bladder, and eGFR.

Respiratory Health

Asthma, lung health, and sinus congestion.

Reproductive Health

Sexual dysfunction, female infertility, PCOS, painful periods, endometriosis, menstrual cycle length, irregular periods, heavy periods, and uterine fibroids.

Blood

Bilirubin, ALT, creatinine kinase, platelets, alkaline phosphatase, red blood cells, white blood cells, eosinophils, LDL cholesterol, HDL cholesterol, total cholesterol, hematocrit, ferritin, blood urea nitrogen, anemia, creatinine, total protein, albumin, uric acid, triglycerides, hemoglobin, AST, basophils, blood calcium, RDW, fasting glucose, MCHC, IGF-1, MCV, and monocytes.

Toxins

Arsenic, lead, mercury, air pollution sensitivity, mold sensitivity (airborne), and cadmium.

Skin

Psoriasis, acne, eczema, hives, rosacea, vitiligo, and heavy sweating.

Pain & Fatigue

Chronic pain, fatigue, shoulder and neck pain, migraines, headache, back pain, chronic Lyme, and restless legs.

Eyes, Ears, & Mouth

Tinnitus, gum disease, canker sores, cavities, vertigo, hearing loss, teeth grinding, and nearsightedness.

Each report only covers a brief glimpse into your genetic potential. Some only cover half of what you might want to know (splitting high and low blood pressure potentials into two different reports, for example), and others only address one gene (like vitamin B9, which only looks at variations in the MTHFR gene).

On top of these reports, SelfDecode has recently added Fitness and Nutrition Reports, which break down where your diet is genetically predisposed to fail and what types of exercise may help your body most. They’re currently developing Ancestry Reports and Disease Predisposition Reports, which will be available for people with a Premium Insights plan once it launches. Plus, SelfDecode launches new Health and Trait Reports every week. Only Nebula Genomics adds new information that frequently, and they mostly limit it to their Health Report equivalents.

What’s in a report?

Each report comes as either a multi-section webpage or a 30-ish page PDF that you can download for later access. Not all 30 pages are relevant in every situation, particularly if you’re downloading and reading multiple reports. However, if you’re checking out a report for the first time, SelfDecode breaks down how they create your results in the first few pages.

Trait Reports use a simple dial with relevant icons to help you visualize your results (such as a dial with a brown iris on one side and a green iris on the other, which tells you how likely it is you have one eye color or another). They use a few simple symbols in each Health Report, too:

  • A green smiling face, an orange neutral face, and a red sad face to visualize your risk
  • A fraction out of ten human figures to represent your risk percentile across the population (with the 50th percentile as average risk)
  • Icons for categorizing recommendations into dietary, lifestyle, and supplement categories

Their scientists also rank their recommendations on a scale of five based on their potential impact and how much evidence exists that it works. These scores consider the general population (how well it works for most people) and any studies looking at people with your specific genotype.

After breaking down all of this, SelfDecode presents you with one page that breaks down your likelihood of having or developing a trait, how many genetic variants they analyzed, and background information about the condition or health impact. A link to a scientific reference backs up every claim they assert (or, in some cases, five or six references).

However, it’s important to note that SelfDecode’s risk percentile math doesn’t always add up. For example, one of our testers knows they have a very high risk of developing Type 2 diabetes due to their extensive family history. Previous genetic tests have confirmed this risk and estimate that they are around the 85th percentile (meaning they’re more likely than 85% of the population to develop it). When they uploaded their genetic data to SelfDecode, the program found all of the same genetic markers but labeled their risk for developing Type 2 diabetes in the 19th percentile. The genetic information was correct, just not the interpretations. This wasn’t a consistently missed shot and may be because we uploaded DNA from a previous test, but you should double-check the variants themselves just in case.

The rest of your report centers on your recommendations. Clearly, this is the center of SelfDecode’s focus, as it tends to be at least 10 pages of information. Like the overall analysis page, each recommendation has an impact and an evidence rating, as well as multiple links to studies discussing how well it works (or doesn’t) for people.

They don’t shy away from letting you know when their suggestions don’t work in studies, either. Your recommendations are ordered according to their combined impact and evidence scores, so the recommendations that are scientifically validated to be the most likely to work are the ones you’ll see first. We’re big fans of this level of honesty. While other DNA testing companies that use action plans link to scientific studies that back up their claims, SelfDecode is the only one that looks at the full scientific landscape — not just one study — and will be transparent with you when their suggestion has mixed results.

All information about your genes comes in boxes at the bottom of each recommendation page. Suppose exercise is your top recommendation to decrease your chances of developing inflammation.¹³ In that case, it might state that “exercise may reduce inflammation more in people with your TNF gene variant” or that “this activity may reduce inflammation by targeting many gene variants at once.”¹⁴ Below, it’ll list the specific gene, SNP, base pairs, and the evidence ranking out of five for the recommendation based on your particular genotype. Despite this information, SelfDecode focuses more on their advice and the steps you can take than the genes themselves.

Most reports contain between 10 and 25 recommendations depending on the number of higher-risk genetic variants you have.

Free DNA reports

If you already have your genetic information from another DNA testing company, SelfDecode allows you to upload it for free to get an idea of their service. This is a huge bonus, as it lets you get a sense of SelfDecode’s analysis and whether or not their recommendations will be helpful without pulling out your wallet. Our testers uploaded previously gathered DNA files and tried this themselves.

To take advantage of this trial, you’ll need a raw genetic code file from one of SelfDecode’s accepted companies. (We used Nebula Genomic’s raw data files.) Uploading your data unlocks three free reports within a few hours:

  • Inflammation
  • High blood sugar
  • Anxiety

To learn more, you’ll have to purchase an upload-based Health Insights plan. Despite this limited scope, SelfDecode still provides a lot of information in all three reports. It took about eight hours for all of the data to upload and process, and we received an email from SelfDecode when our results were ready.

SelfDecode Labs

If you know that you’re genetically at a higher risk of a medical condition than most people, you might wonder how close (or how far) you are to developing the disease. After all, just because you have genes that suggest it’s more likely you’ll develop a condition, it doesn’t mean that’s what your phenotype — what you look and act like as an expression of those genes — will show. SelfDecode has their own storefront for blood tests, so you can quickly and easily check in on those phenotypes for yourself.

There are 355 tests you can take using three different methods: lab tests (looking at one biomarker), lab panels (looking at more than one biomarker), and home test kits. Both lab tests and lab panels need to be performed by a phlebotomist in a Quest Diagnostics laboratory. You won’t need an appointment to get your blood drawn, though it can help you skip the line if you go on your lunch break or before work.

Quest Diagnostics is a national laboratory service with over 6,000 locations nationwide; most of these locations are in and around major cities, so you might be a little out of luck if you live in a rural area. Likewise, these tests aren’t available for children under 18 or in a few states due to local laws, specifically:

  • Arizona
  • New York
  • New Jersey
  • Rhode Island

There are too many specific tests to list, but they come in 15 different major categories:

  • Allergies
  • Anti-aging
  • Diabetes
  • Drug testing
  • Fatigue
  • Fitness and nutrition
  • General health
  • Gut health
  • Immune health
  • Inflammation
  • Mental health
  • Sex health
  • Thyroid health
  • Toxins
  • Women’s/Men’s health

Both at-home and in-lab tests are convenient to order online. All the labs that SelfDecode works with to process results are CLIA-certified, ensuring the highest quality results and privacy because they comply with strict state and federal safety standards and undergo regular inspections. (This is common, if not expected, for major laboratory testing companies.) You’ll hear back in 1-2 weeks with your results, which a physician approves before you see them. Expect to wait a little longer for at-home test results because you have to put them in the mail.

You’ll get an email from SelfDecode notifying you that your results are ready. SelfDecode will let you know if your results are in an optimal range based on your age and sex, which is more precise than “normal” values given to you by your doctor’s office.

SelfDecode also offers a Lab Analyzer, tracker, and recommendations. Should your results be outside of an optimal range, SelfDecode will advise you on improving your results, much like their suggestions based on your genes. They’ll also use this information to make your Health Trait recommendations more precise. Not only will you know what you’re predisposed to, but you’ll also be able to track what your body is actually doing, offering both theoretical and reality checks at once. You can also manually upload lab results from past trips to the doctor’s office, which has the same effect.

The Lab Analyzer works identically to InsideTracker’s primary mechanisms but at a much lower cost. It’s also now available to all SelfDecode users regardless of which plan you choose. Previously, this was only an option for Premium Insights users.

Consultation Membership program

Genetic tests that let you poke around in your genome, like SelfDecode, pose a significant risk: the possibility of discovering health problems you didn’t otherwise know about, such as an increased risk of Alzheimer’s¹⁵ or BRCA1 and BRCA2.¹⁶ Maybe you've heard the horror stories: a family gets a set of DNA tests for the holidays and discovers they aren't actually related, or a friend does a DNA test for fun and discovers she has cystic fibrosis. To help you process this information (or anything else you learn), SelfDecode has a health coaching program called the Consultation Membership program, where you can meet with a health professional once a month. This medical expert will walk you through your risks, results, and symptoms for all of your health concerns.

Your genes are a big part of your health, but they aren't the only thing the medical professionals in the Consultation Membership inspect. To help you meet your health goals, they also analyze your:

  • Lab test results
  • Diet
  • Medications and nutritional supplements
  • Exercise habits
  • Family history
  • Other lifestyle factors, like weight, smoking, and alcohol use

SelfDecode advertises that you might work with an MD, ND (naturopathic doctor), genetic counselor, or health coach within this membership program. However, they currently have two doctors (one ND and one MD) on staff.

This membership program includes all of the same features as the Premium Insights plan — including a DNA testing kit — as well as:

  • One monthly hour-long meeting with your provider
  • Personalized plan to help you reach your health goals
  • Unlimited messaging with your provider with a promised 72-hour turnaround time
  • Access to advanced lab testing not otherwise available to the public

As of the end of 2022, SelfDecode also gives you one free one-on-one consultation with a health provider when you purchase a DNA test and Premium Insights plan. But SelfDecode charges about $100 more for the DNA+Premium Insights package ($499) than a Consultation Membership if you cancel after its mandatory 2-month minimum investment ($398). And you get more information (and help from a medical expert) with the Consultation Membership.

Ultimately, between Premium Insights and a Consultation Membership, it’s a better deal to go with the latter up front if you know you’ll want that extra support and you aren’t interested in long-term reporting. You’ll get the same information, messaging, extra lab tests, and one more meeting with the consultant for less money. You can then cancel your Consultation Membership and be done with it or keep paying the annual fee for access to your data and updated reports.

If you aren’t ready to commit to a full coaching plan, SelfDecode also offers a one-time one-on-one consultation with one of two genetics consultants (the ND from the Consultations Membership team and a certified genetic counselor). This video appointment lasts 30 minutes and focuses exclusively on your genetic results. However, they will also cover ways you might be able to change your lifestyle to support your health using any genetic insights. It’s less expensive, too, and its one-time access means you won’t have to cancel a subscription once you get what you need. This counseling is only available for SelfDecode members.

How much does SelfDecode cost?

SelfDecode’s pricing structure simplified dramatically in November 2022. Previously, you had to choose a plan and annual membership fee (or pay per report, which added up dramatically fast) on top of choosing if you wanted to redo your genetic testing. Now, how much you’ll pay depends on two things:

  • Taking a DNA test or bringing pre-existing data
  • If taking a test, choosing between Health Insights and Premium Insights

Here’s how much you’ll pay for each configuration:

Either way, you’ll also pay a $99 annual subscription fee. This update increased the prices of these plans slightly. Here’s how much more SelfDecode charges:

The first decision you’ll have to make is easy and depends on whether you’ve already had your DNA tested. (If you’re concerned about potential privacy violations, you can always have your DNA re-tested, especially because SelfDecode claims to have one of the most accurate at-home genetic tests.)

Testing your DNA adds $12 shipping to the U.S. and anywhere from $8.88 to $55 internationally. But, as an Innerbody reader, you can reduce these prices by 10% using our coupon code INNERBODY.

Despite the initial sticker shock and annual fees, SelfDecode is on the lower side of average for DNA tests. Others that cost less are almost guaranteed to be less robust, and many that cost more aren’t quite as accurate as SelfDecode. They’re one of the best values if you want to maximize the amount of information you get.

As if that weren’t enough, SelfDecode also offers a few other add-ons that can make your experience more robust. We’ll go into more detail about what you get for the price below, starting with a quick chart that explains how much each additional service costs.

Consultation Membership

This membership costs $199 monthly, and you can cancel without punishment or penalty, but there’s a two-month minimum, and if you cancel within 14 days of your next billing cycle, you’ll be charged for one more month. You’ll still have access to all of the benefits of the membership through the end of that next month. Even with these caveats, seeing a provider for two months is considerably faster and easier than waiting for a referral from your primary care provider or insurance company, though it may be more expensive.

A Premium Insights plan includes one session with a health provider, so if you haven’t previously done a DNA test but know you want to meet with a provider, it’s worth it to splurge for the Premium Insights plan. However, it’s roughly equivalent to paying for two months’ of meetings if you’ve previously had your DNA tested ($497 vs $499).

The $199 monthly fee associated with a Consultation Membership will replace the cost of a standard $99 SelfDecode annual subscription fee. The Consultation Membership program gives you all the access to your personal genetic data that a lifetime membership does, including things like the SNP explorer and blog posts. You can “downgrade” back to a standard membership after you’ve gotten what you need from their health coaches. Their shorter, 30-minute one-on-one genetic-only consultations cost $149, charged once with no follow-up required, but is an additional service that doesn’t replace anything. It’s a good option if you:

  • Want one health consultation but don’t want a Premium Insights plan
  • Don’t want to pay for two or more months of a Consultation Membership
  • Only want support with your genetic results, not your whole health

Either way, SelfDecode is the only genetic service at this time that offers any active support from medical professionals. It’s also cheaper than seeing a genetic counselor out-of-pocket, so it’s an excellent option for those without insurance who want a little more support.

Supplements

If your DNA results suggest you’re predisposed to specific health problems like high blood sugar, vitamin or mineral deficiencies, or difficulties absorbing or using various nutrients, SelfDecode prepares personalized supplements that may help. These supplements are formulated based on clinical research and your results, and can be surprisingly useful.

For example, one of our testers has a common mutation in the MTHFR gene that reduces the amount of folate (vitamin B9) made in the body, meaning they are much more likely to be folate deficient. They had experienced chronic fatigue and exhaustion that nothing seemed to fix, a symptom of low vitamin B9 and B12. (Without enough folate, the body can’t absorb vitamin B12.)¹⁷ Upon seeing this result, they began taking a B complex vitamin with large amounts of B9 and B12. Within a few days, their energy levels increased, and even things they didn’t realize were associated (like constantly tingling extremities) diminished. A personalized supplement from SelfDecode would include both B9 and B12 at doses in line with suggested daily values for the same results.

However, their cost is just as personalized as their formulation. Simple supplements start at $109/month, but prices increase as the formula gets more complex.

While you’d be hard-pressed to find supplements as personalized as SelfDecode offers, $109/month is no small fee. However, there are undoubtedly many more expensive supplements on the market. SelfDecode’s combined use of scientific studies and your genetic information mean that their formulas are more likely to work for your body than a supplement off the shelf, so it’s a great choice if you want to save yourself time and frustration while experimenting with different supplements.

SelfDecode Labs

Like the rest of their programs, SelfDecode Labs has a complicated price structure. There are currently 355 lab tests available, so we won’t list the prices for all of them, but they cost anywhere from $39 to more than $1,250 depending on the test and whether you’ll take it at home or in a lab. Typically, a home test costs between $90 and $250, with most falling close to $150, and lab tests run the full range of prices listed above.

If you’re interested in adding a picture of your current health to SelfDecode’s genetic setup, how much you’ll pay depends on whether or not you have an active membership. Those with active SelfDecode subscriptions get a discount on all tests: 12% on at-home tests and 50% off in-lab tests (both individual and panels). This is another reason a subscription is worth it, as it can sometimes take more than $600 off your final bill.

SelfDecode also offers three different Professional Plans, which allow health practitioners to manage the services for multiple clients on the platform. These plans won’t impact (or be available for) most people, but if you’re a doctor interested in helping your patients identify potential health concerns and create more robust preventative plans, SelfDecode can help up to 100 clients per doctor for an annual fee.

Getting started with SelfDecode

First, you’ll need to decide whether you’d like to upload a DNA file or purchase a kit. If you opt for a kit, you’ll also need to choose between a Health Insights or Premium Insights plan. While this decision is up to you, SelfDecode strongly recommends testing your DNA because different laboratories — and, in some cases, the same laboratory with different companies — have different margins of error, so your information is more likely to be incorrect when uploaded. Plus, you can only get the Premium Insights plan with a DNA test kit.

Upon selecting, you’ll be redirected to checkout, where you’ll:

  • Build an account (name, email, password)
  • Build your profile (birth date, ethnicity, assigned sex at birth, height, weight)
  • Pay (credit card or PayPal)

Afterward, the website will direct you to a platform where you can upload your DNA file or enter shipping information for your DNA test.

Taking a DNA test

DNA tests are one of the most accessible at-home tests out there to take. They’re pain-free, and the type that SelfDecode uses is even easier than the typical cheek swab. Specifically, SelfDecode asks for a saliva sample to collect your DNA sample.

When you get the box a few days after ordering (time to delivery depends on where you live), you should first register your DNA kit online using the URL printed inside. This ensures that your genetic information stays tied to your account. To take a saliva sample, all you have to do is spit the appropriate amount into the sample tube inside the box.

Don’t eat, drink, smoke, chew gum, brush your teeth, use mouthwash, or otherwise interfere with your mouth at least 30 minutes before taking the test. Keeping your mouth clean ensures that what you’re spitting is your DNA, not cheese from your lunchtime sandwich.

After you collect your saliva sample, put the tube into the biohazard bag. The bag should go back into the SelfDecode box, the box into the pre-paid return envelope, and the return envelope into the mail.

It takes SelfDecode 6-8 weeks to decode your genetic information, and they tend to lean closer to eight weeks. This is on par with most other genetic testing companies. They’ll send you emails to let you know when your DNA has arrived at their lab and when your results are ready to view.

Uploading your genetic data

As easy as it is to test your DNA with SelfDecode, they make it even easier to upload any previously tested genetic information you have on hand for further analysis. They accept files initially processed by the following DNA companies:

  • 23AndMe
  • Ancestry
  • Atlas
  • Circle DNA
  • Courtagen
  • Dante Labs
  • DDC
  • Diagnomics
  • DNA.Land
  • Family Tree
  • Genes For Good
  • iGene
  • Illumina
  • Living DNA
  • Map My Genome
  • MyHeritage
  • Nebula Deep & Ultra Deep
  • Nutrition Genome
  • Sequencing
  • Strategene
  • Your Genomic Resource

Note that you’ll have to stay on the page while the file uploads (clicking into another tab or window will crash the page). Luckily, it took our testers an average of 90 seconds to complete a full-genome data file upload; this time may vary depending on the file size and your Internet speed.

It takes less than 24 hours for your upload to process. Our testers found that it took 8-12 hours, depending on the file size. But no matter how long it takes, you’ll get an email notifying you when your results are ready.

Analysis tools

The real fun with SelfDecode begins after your DNA’s been processed. SelfDecode provides a useful orientation to help you find things when you first start on the page. You’ll have several different areas of the site to check out:

Reports

As discussed in depth earlier in the article, these long guides give you insight into your genetic code and actionable steps to improve your health based on clinical recommendations. The number of Health Reports and Trait Reports you’ll have access to depends on which plan you initially purchased.

Lifestyle Assessments

These surveys ask about your lifestyle, work habits, environment, and family history to determine non-genetic areas of concern. It works in tandem with your genetic information but doesn’t replace it, instead giving you a second rating for several different factors (such as acne or high blood sugar) based on your lifestyle and environmental choices. Think of it as measuring the nurture in the nature versus nurture debate. Completing these is entirely optional.

SelfHacked

SelfHacked is SelfDecode’s website and blog. It meets HONcode standards for trustworthy health information and functions like an encyclopedia. To learn more, you can search for any supplement or health topic (or use their index). Most of it is available for free, but you’ll only be able to read one article without paying for a SelfDecode subscription (unless you clear your cookies after every page).

Health Regimen tool

Akin to InsideTracker’s action plan creation guide, SelfDecode offers a tool to help you consolidate your favorite recommendations and keep yourself accountable. You can move your favorite tips into this tool and track your results.

SNP & Gene Database

This database provides all the information you could need to learn about your specific SNPs and other variants on the same gene across every part of the genome that SelfDecode analyzes. You can click through to read more about anything you want, and bookmark things you’d like to return to later.

You’ll also have the option to purchase lab tests and personalized supplements or sign up for repeated health coaching or one-time genetic counseling session.

Privacy efforts

SelfDecode takes your privacy seriously. Genetic privacy is critical since it’s easy to trace genes back to you, and they don’t change over your lifetime like other health data. While GINA exists to prevent employer and health insurance discrimination based on your genetic information, it doesn’t consider every possibility (nor does it prevent companies from doing other things, like targeting advertisements to you based on your genetic information).

SelfDecode collects a wide variety of your information, including:

  • Genetic code (uploaded or submitted)
  • Self-reported information (survey results)
  • Online behavior (cookies, IP address, page views)
  • Registration information (name, email address, user ID, and password)
  • Payment information
  • Correspondence with support

Despite this looking like a lot on paper, it’s actually a relatively small amount. They store this information in a third-party cloud in complete anonymity, as they store your personal account information and genetic data separately. SelfDecode is the only HIPAA and GDPR (General Data Protection Regulation, the EU equivalent) compliant at-home DNA testing service, which makes them stand out from the competition. No one except for you will be able to view your health information as one cohesive package.

After they analyze your DNA, the lab team will destroy your saliva sample so no one can use it without your knowledge or consent. If you’re worried about your genetic information being traced back to you, you can use a pseudonym or even just initials to distance yourself from the code. If you later decide you want to delete your information, they will remove it from their database without hesitation. You can also opt out of surveys, lab reports and uploads, and email notifications for maximum privacy.

You fully own your genetic data and have access to the raw material and reports, which you can download for storage and safety. Only vetted and trusted employees can use the site’s backend, and they have an entire team dedicated to upholding your privacy. Their technology also exceeds modern security standards, going above and beyond to use advanced encryption methods.

SelfDecode also does a significant amount of research using the genetic information they receive. You have to consent to this — it’s not something you’re automatically enrolled into — and if you decide to help advance the field without lifting a finger, your information will be completely anonymized. In some cases, they’ll use aggregate information (removing your personhood from it entirely), but they may also look at your reports individually. If you decide it’s not for you, revoking your consent is no hassle.

SelfDecode, like other genetic services, shouldn’t be used by children under 18 for privacy reasons.

HSA, FSA, and health insurance

SelfDecode doesn’t take any health insurance directly, including HSA and FSA funds. However, you may be able to submit your receipts for reimbursement. You’ll need a letter of medical necessity for your HSA or FSA to cover the cost of your SelfDecode testing.¹⁸ At this time, however, it’s unlikely that your health insurance will reimburse you for your SelfDecode test because there are currently several other insurance barriers, and letters of medical necessity aren’t often easy to get.¹⁹ 23andMe is the only genetic test reliably covered by HSA or FSA funds because of its FDA approval.

Alternatives to SelfDecode: an overview

Many genetic tests on the market promise to illuminate how your genes influence your daily life. Many more promise to help you improve your health. However, they aren’t all of the same quality, and they don’t all cover the same information. Since genetics is still a relatively new area of science, we don’t have a perfect understanding of it yet. Genetic testing programs that are flexible and update as we learn more are generally better bets for long-term success, but they often come with steep annual subscription prices for their work.

Some genetic tests also provide actionable feedback based on your results, integrating lab work to see how your genetic tendencies might map onto your present-day experiences. And, of course, some DNA tests look at your ancestry, while DNA health tests (like SelfDecode) look at your genetic susceptibility to various medical conditions.

We’ll compare SelfDecode to a few other genetic tests so that you can pick and choose exactly what you need. To help you understand your options, we’ve also put together a quick chart so you can identify what DNA test might fit your needs best before diving in.

DNA services with action plans

Your genes won’t tell you everything you need to know about your health. They can suggest areas where you’re susceptible to problems, but that doesn’t give you any sense of your current health. That’s where action plans and lab tests come in: DNA testing services that also provide action plans and lab tests allow you to use all that information in tandem. Your genes might not predict the future, but combined with your current lab results, you might notice a trend.

InsideTracker

SelfDecode’s closest match is InsideTracker. InsideTracker primarily uses your lab data and blood marker values, not your genes, to help you analyze and maintain optimal health in real time. Adding your genetic information is optional, though they have the fastest turn-around time by far (our testers got their results back in a mere 10 days, compared to SelfDecode’s average of 6-8 weeks). This health test helps you create an action plan based on sub-optimal results and requests that you check in every 3-6 months to see how you’re progressing, giving you plenty of time to try new strategies if needed. This means you’re re-doing your lab results — and paying the full price — for the most accurate information regularly, which adds up quickly.

SelfDecode is much more focused on your genetic information than your current lab values, meaning you’ll pay less for re-testing over time. SelfDecode is also less expensive in general. One DNA test and a full lab panel cost about $800 with InsideTracker, but a DNA test kit alone only costs $249, meaning you’ll pay over $1,000 every year if you check in as often as they want.

However, if you need more help making healthy changes, InsideTracker’s regular prompts may keep you on track. They offer a better action plan that allows you to pick and choose goals based on what you need and what you think you can reasonably accomplish and then gamify the process. But, if your focus is on your genetics, SelfDecode blows them out of the water with their prices and sheer volume of results.

Vitagene

Vitagene is another major player in the combined DNA and blood health test sphere. They offer seven lab tests, performed by CAP- and CLIA-certified laboratories, for many of the most common health concerns, as well as a Health & Ancestry DNA test. While SelfDecode is in the process of adding ancestry to their roster, Vitagene already has the service in place at a much lower price ($99-$139, depending on if you want skin health information). However, Vitagene’s lab tests function more like independent testing companies than SelfDecode, as the results don’t impact your action plan or recommendations.

Uploaded DNA analysis alternatives

Many DNA companies let you upload your raw data for a fee that’s less than the price of re-doing your results all over again. SelfDecode provides the same information and perks for users who upload their DNA, but the prices also stay close to the same.

Most of the companies that accept DNA uploads, like Sequencing, Nebula, and Promethease, still offer this information at a lower overall price. Promethease only takes previously developed genetic codes and costs $12 for an encyclopedia’s worth of information (without any action plans, explanations, or personalized goals). Sequencing and Nebula will take uploaded information for free but charge either per app used (for Sequencing) or a subscription (for Nebula). Nebula still offers a lifetime subscription ($275), which means that, if you plan on using SelfDecode for longer than three years, you’ll pay longer in the grand scheme of things. But ultimately, Nebula doesn’t provide the same kinds of information useful for most people that SelfDecode does.

SelfDecode is still your best bet if you want an action plan based on your genetic makeup. InsideTracker lets you upload your DNA for less money ($29), but because they’re focused mostly on your blood biomarkers, you’ll get less than one-tenth of the information (let alone SelfDecode’s other options). While you’ll still have to pay $99 once a year, that’s considerably less than the near-thousands of dollars you’d have to pay for similar amounts of information through InsideTracker. And since SelfDecode is expanding their options, your opportunities to learn and develop will continue growing as well.

Whole genome sequencing

It feels like science fiction, but our knowledge of genetics has evolved enough that some companies can provide your entire genome at a relatively low cost. Of course, you’ll have to wade through the data yourself. Most companies that provide whole genome sequencing tests give you exploration tools or the option to click around in your genetic code to see exactly what you’re working with. However, these exploration tools mean very little if you don’t know what you’re looking at. Generally, whole genome sequencing tests (and their corresponding tools) are best for the scientifically minded or people looking for a handful of specific genes.

When it comes to whole genome sequencing tests, it’s hard to beat what Nebula Genomics offers. Their fully anonymous sequencing relies on blockchain technology (which may or may not be a good thing), and they are in the process of partnering with Oasis Labs, a third-party privacy program also used by tech giants like Meta, for maximum hands-on privacy efforts.²⁰ SelfDecode, on the other hand, does all of their privacy work in-house and behind the scenes.

Both provide weekly updates with new reports, but Nebula gives you fewer options to customize your results (and payment options). That said, only one of Nebula’s plans gives you a full spectrum of health and ancestry information at a reasonable price, not counting their membership fees. In fact, the only differences between their Deep and Ultra Deep plans are the price and sequencing depth, or how many times it goes over your code:

  • Deep: 30x, $299
  • UltraDeep: 100x, $999

Typically, 30x-50x is ideal for full genome sequencing,²¹ and 120x or more is suitable for a clinical setting.²² Because UltraDeep costs so much more for less than clinical accuracy, it’s likely not worth the extra expenses.

If you need something with clinical accuracy, it’s probably best to go to a genetic counselor. Genetic counseling is also more likely to be covered by your health insurance, and you’ll have immediate access to support options, saving you money and stress in the long run. SelfDecode offers a one-time, 30-minute genetic counseling session through their service, which means you won’t have the hassle of long wait times or trying to track a referral.

SelfDecode doesn’t go to the same lengths to record your genetic information as Nebula Genomics, genotyping instead of sequencing. They don’t catalog every base pair in your genes (considering that about 98% of our genome is non-coding DNA).²³ However, they still offer a gene exploration tool, which allows you to click through and analyze genes that mean things on your terms. Nebula is great for genetics geeks, but if you need a little help figuring out the difference between a haplotype and a karyotype, SelfDecode provides a hearty amount of assistance at all levels.

At-home testing alternatives

With over 350 tests, SelfDecode has a larger catalog than even the biggest names in at-home testing. That said, not every test that SelfDecode offers can be done at home; you'll need to take most of them at a Quest Diagnostics laboratory. In fact, only 25 of their tests are doable at home:

  • Adrenal stress
  • Basic food sensitivity
  • Cholesterol and lipids
  • Comprehensive fitness test
  • Fertility test
  • HbA1c
  • Heart health
  • Hormone trio (saliva)
  • Inflammation
  • Anti-Aging (Basic)
  • Anti-Aging (Advanced)
  • Anti-Aging (Comprehensive)
  • Melatonin
  • Men or Women’s Health
  • Metabolism
  • Ovarian reserve
  • Perimenopause/Postmenopause test
  • Saliva Male/Female Hormones
  • Saliva Male/Female Hormones Plus
  • Skin Vitality Test
  • Sleep and Stress
  • Testosterone
  • Thyroid Health
  • Vitamin D
  • Weight loss

However, some major competitors — like imaware — offer less than 25 tests, so though SelfDecode’s proportion of at-home to in-lab tests is low, they still provide a significant number. Like all major players in at-home testing, SelfDecode’s labs are CLIA-certified, ensuring the highest quality results. They also have a physician review your results to ensure they make sense, which is standard for the field. However, they don’t offer any advice or consultations with medical providers about your test results unless you opt for two months of their Consultation Membership, which costs more than the tests.

Most at-home health tests focus on sexual health and hormonal wellness and cover broad strokes in a few major categories like diabetes care, heart health, and thyroid tests. SelfDecode generally falls in line with this — several uniquely-labeled tests only measure common hormones, such as their Skin Vitality Test — but is the only one that offers a melatonin test to check in on your ability to fall asleep at night.

One of the significant ways that SelfDecode’s labs fall short is their turn-around time. It takes at least 1-2 weeks for your at-home test results to come back, whereas most competitors take 2-5 days.

SelfDecode’s prices are also a little steep, even for members. For example, an at-home vitamin D test costs $104 for members and $124 for non-members. Other prominent figures in the field charge less:

However, SelfDecode charges much less for their in-lab tests. That same vitamin D test costs $32 for members and $64 for non-members if you go in for a blood draw. While you still might be charged less for that test if you go through your insurance, for those who don’t have insurance (or don’t want to spend time and money convincing their primary care provider that they need this test), SelfDecode has some great options if there’s a Quest Diagnostics lab near you. For their at-home tests, however, you’re better off looking at other at-home testing options and manually inputting your information into SelfDecode’s lab analyzer portal.

FAQ about SelfDecode

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