Food Science

Food Sensitivity? There's a DNA Test for That

July 27, 2017

Earlier this week, at-home lab testing company EverlyWell partnered with Helix, a genomics company that’s something like the spiritual sister of 23andMe, to add three new products to its portfolio. One is a $149 metabolism kit that determines how your DNA might alter your weight; another is an $89 tool for women that measures how much omega-3 DHA is in their breast milk. The third is a Food Sensitivity test that'll set you back $249.

The objective of this kit is not only to determine what your sensitivity to certain foods is, but how much of that is informed by your DNA. The process seems simple at first brush: It’s a paperwork-free process in which you hand over your health history to EverlyWell, who will then have that history reviewed by a physician. Afterwards, you’ll receive two kits in the mail from each company—one for saliva, the other for blood.

You provide the requisite samples and return those kits in prepaid envelopes. The kit tests your sensitivity to quite an assortment of foods: barley to bran, chia to chicken, safflower to soybean, about 96 in total. Within a matter of weeks, you’ll receive your full results, in the form of a rubric that measures the severity of your sensitivity to each food, via email.

I should note that food sensitivity shouldn’t be conflated with actual food allergies. This kit is more a test to discover why ingesting certain foods may incapacitate you with awful physical ailments— headaches, acne, eczema, bloating, fatigue, joint pain, migraines, the like.

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There are obvious snags to this product: This tool is meant to function as form of guidance for what to eliminate from your diets than anything more deterministic. The hope is that tests may prod you to adjust your diet by shedding light on your body’s prepositions, ones that you may have been unaware of thus prior or not necessarily have understood. (I’m personally quite wary of any nascent company that asks me to entrust it with my blood.) The kit, rather crucially, is incompatible with any health insurance plans, which makes that price point something of a real impediment. If that's not a deterrent for you, though, give it a whirl and let me know how it goes.

Learn more about EverlyWell and Helix's Food Sensitivity Kit here.

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Mayukh Sen is a James Beard Award-winning food and culture writer in New York. His writing has appeared in the New York Times, the New Yorker, Bon Appetit, and elsewhere. He won a 2018 James Beard Award in Journalism for his profile of Princess Pamela published on Food52.

1 Comment

Natalie July 30, 2017
I am so glad I had a food sensitivity test done by a doctor. The results showed that (besides lactose and casein) I am sensitive to the whites, but not the yolks, of eggs. After eliminating eggs for a month I tested eating plain whites and found that they both fatigued me and gave me heart burn. I don't think I could have ever figured out that sensitivity on my own. I mean, egg whites?!

I'm not sure I understand why this is bundled with a DNA test unless you get complete DNA test results as well. But in general, this seems like a good idea.