Earlier this year, we reported that one day you’ll be able to visit your doctor, have some blood drawn and find out about many of your health risks for the next 5 or 10 years through a method called genetic testing. We cautioned, however, that we still have many things to learn about genes before that vision becomes a reality. Unfortunately, some unscrupulous marketers aren’t willing to wait.
The U.S. Government Accountability Office (GAO) recently purchased genetic tests from 4 web sites and created fictitious consumers to see what results they got. They submitted 12 samples taken from 2 people, telling the companies that they came from adults with various ages, weights and lifestyles.
The results from all the tests would mislead consumers, GAO concluded, by making predictions that are either medically unproven or so ambiguous they don’t provide meaningful information.
The fictitious consumers that GAO created should have received the same recommendations when their genes came from the same person. Instead, they received a variety of different recommendations, depending on their fictitious lifestyles.
Some results recommended costly dietary supplements. One suggested “personalized” supplements costing well over $1,000 a year. After examining the ingredients, however, GAO found that the same vitamins and antioxidants could be found in any grocery store for about $35 a year.
GAO’s findings reinforce NIH’s recommendations: Take only genetic tests recommended and given by trained medical professionals.