“Know thyself”, a saying attributed to Greek philosopher Socrates, is built on the belief that knowing yourself is true wisdom.
Malaysian startup Advanx Health is built along the same principle; and if you’re looking to know yourself more, what better way than to go down all the way to DNA level?
Advanx Health is a health technology company that tests DNA to help users understand how best to keep themselves healthy and receive recommendations on health risks, nutrition, fitness and some fun traits.
We had an opportunity to try it out for ourselves, and here’s our breakdown of the entire process, from the beginning to the end, along with our thoughts throughout.
After ordering on the website, it takes about 2-3 working days (up to 5 working days for East Malaysia) days for the testing kit to be delivered.
The DNA Explorer Health360 kit contains a tube with a special solution and a set of instructions on how to register on the Advanx Health website.
The registration process itself is very straightforward. A barcode on the box links the collection kit directly back to a personal account, we were told to be very careful to not get our barcode wrong because each individual’s code is unique.
When it came to getting the DNA sample to be sent back for analysis, all that was needed was:
– Hook up the provided funnel to the tube
– Begin depositing saliva into the tube until we hit the level indicator on the tube
For the two of us who gave it a go, Dale took less than a minute to gather enough spit, I took a little longer.
Note: Do not eat or drink anything 30 mins before spitting. Do not smoke or chew gum either. Also, don’t kiss anyone, to avoid DNA contamination.
The buffer solution already present in the tube preserves the integrity of the DNA in the saliva. Once saliva is deposited, we had to shake the tubes and mix everything up before putting them back into the prepaid shipping envelope.
We found the instructions on the box were very clear, and the collection kit itself is marked well enough so that anyone that can read will know exactly what and what not to do. As Dale described it, basically idiot-proof.
According to the Advanx Health team, it takes around 10-40 days for the samples to be evaluated and the results to be released.
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Peering Into The Double Helix
Once the reports were ready, Dale and I were notified via email, respectively. All we had to do was sign into our personal accounts on the Advanx Health website to access our individual reports.
To reiterate, the DNA testing focuses purely on health and wellness and knowing yourself, not on heritage.
Besides getting access to DNA raw data, the DNA Explorer Health360 package currently includes the following:
- 15 Health Risk reports e.g. risk of diseases like stroke, gout, fatty liver disease and Alzheimer’s
- 13 Nutrition Trait reports e.g. fat metabolism, calcium requirement, vitamin requirements
- 5 Diet Management Trait reports e.g. lactose intolerance, caffeine and alcohol metabolism etc
- 5 Fitness Trait reports e.g. muscle endurance and recovery ability after sports
- 2 Inner Potential reports e.g. learning ability and cognitive ability
For example, you might get results that show you’re susceptible to having lower fat metabolism, higher probability of Vitamin D deficiency, high risk of Type 2 diabetes, and high learning ability.
Note: The results are not for diagnostic use, therefore receiving a “normal” in a certain category e.g. Type 2 diabetes doesn’t mean you will never get it. It’s just an indication that you do not have the genetic variations that is linked to higher risk of Type-2 diabetes.
The reports also include an explanation of the trait, suggested lifestyle changes, factors that may affect the occurence of said trait, and even diet recommendations.
The genetics geeks in us were also happy that they also included the exact genotypes measured to get the results.
According to the Advanx Health team, most of the data in the reports that measure if a person is “high”, “normal” or “low” on a certain trait is gathered from an average of people in Asia, using information from the past decade or so.
And yes, at the beginning, the reports are quite overwhelming and some aren’t easy to understand at first glance.
That’s why Advanx Health also provides one complimentary consultation session, where the results are explained and broken down, and we were able to ask any burning questions/clarify doubts.
What Can We Learn From Our 23 Pairs Of Chromosomes?
After looking at the results, there were two main lines of thought.
1. What we already knew, and the results merely confirmed it
Personally, I have a family history of diabetes so it made sense that I am higher risk of Type 2 diabetes, according to my DNA.
I was formerly a bit more dismissive about the risk, but now I can’t be so casual about it. Compared to just stories or warnings from my parents, which are more fear driven, this is now a fact based concern.
2. What we didn’t know, and came as a surprise to us
According to my DNA, I should have faster recovery ability for sports. However, I find that isn’t the case. Perhaps this is an indication that there are areas in my lifestyle that needs to be improved. For example my diet could be lacking in certain nutrients that are required before and after workouts including amino acids, protein and essential vitamins. The report also included lifestyle changes that could help me manage muscle aches and pain after workouts
Since I’m at high-risk for diabetes and non-alcoholic fatty liver disease, it makes me think twice about what I’m putting into my mouth, that hesitancy is going to help me make a different lifestyle choice.
On the budget front, we also felt that knowing our “genetic need” for certain vitamins and supplements to be very helpful.
Currently I’m taking multivitamins, but that’s not super efficient because the doses are too low to really make an impact. Now that I know which specific deficiencies my DNA states that I’m more in lack of, I can spend my money on those specific vitamins or supplements.
All-in-all, with the early bird price of RM499 that was available during the pre-launch period, I felt it was worth the price compared to some of the other options available, especially considering that the data is based on Asian genes. The early bird promo however is already over, so the current price of a DNA Explorer Health360 is RM899.
If you’re looking for something more affordable, Advanx Health has also introduced another DNA Explorer package, the DNA Explorer Essential, at a promotion price of RM499. It’s more like a starter pack to your DNA, where you’ll get 25 reports on nutrition, fitness and inner potential traits. You can opt to purchase the health risk reports (as an add-on) separately in the future, when you’re ready/want to know.
The Advanx Health team reminded us that the results are just the starting point; the lifestyle changes that we implement based on the results are more crucial—I wholeheartedly agree.
I probably shouldn’t get bubble tea for dinner later.
- You can currently get the DNA Explorer Health360 for RM 899 or DNA Explorer Essential for RM499 from the Advanx Health website, or from their authorised distributors. Editor’s Note 27/08/21: The pricing mentioned was accurate at the time of writing. Since then, Advanx Health has adjusted its pricing plans.
- If you’re a Hong Leong bank credit/debit card user, you can get the DNA Explorer Health360 at a discounted price of RM699, as part of Advanx Health’s partnership with Hong Leong bank. Get more details here.
- Read more about Advanx Health and their mission here.