Consumers Warned on Home DNA Tests

Home DNA tests that promise consumers customized nutrition advice based on their individual genetic makeup have no medical value, congressional investigators said Thursday.

A year-long investigation by the Government Accountability Office found that the companies are, at best, selling bad advice through their Internet sites, the investigators said.

"I want to send a message to consumers across the country: Buyer beware," Gregory Kurtz, who led the probe, told the Associated Press.

The self-test kits, which cost from $99 to $1,000, can be purchased on the Internet and in some stores. Consumers send in a cheek swab for DNA analysis, fill out a lifestyle questionnaire, and receive nutrition advice.

But investigators, who bought kits from companies selling through four Web sites, created 14 pretend customers and found that the advice varied greatly and contained generalities such as "do not smoke" and "customers" with bad diets may risk heart disease, the GAO reported. One company advised three of the customers to buy a "personalized" dietary supplement blend at a cost of more than $1,880 a year, which the company claimed could repair damaged DNA, AP reported.

Genetics experts, however, told the GAO that there is no pill that can repair DNA damage and that some of the blend's megadose vitamins might even cause harm.

Representatives from the gene-testing companies said Thursday that they were providing an important service and were being criticized unfairly because they had not had a chance to see, or respond to, the allegations.

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration is looking into whether the tests violate any regulatory requirements, the AP reported. And federal health officials urged consumers to consult their doctors or trained genetics counselors before undergoing any genetic testing.

Health Highlights: July 28, 2006 - Forbes.com