An Expansive Menu of DNA Tests
Want to optimize your diet and fitness regimen? Take better care of your skin? Take control of your food sensitivities? Orig3n has individual tests for all that and much more. But are they worth it?
A lot of other companies’ tests cover at least some of the same topics. But by offering so many highly targeted options — a lot of them very affordable — Orig3n promises answers to a variety of specific questions you may have about your health, wellness, diet, fitness, beauty, personality, and more.
The question is, how helpful are any of these tests? How reliable are their findings? How much of a difference will they make for you? Are they worth the cost? And how do they compare to similar tests from other companies?
In this review, I’ll give you my personal opinion, as someone who has taken a lot of commercial DNA tests. Spoiler alert: some people have had positive experiences with Orig3n. But I wasn’t one of them.
So Many Options. How to Choose?!?
As I said, Orig3n offers many different DNA tests, which could all be classified under the common test categories of either Health & Wellness or Diet & Fitness. I’ll walk you through some of the major choices within each category.
To make things more complicated, some of Orig3n’s tests explore elements of other, larger tests. For example, the company’s Vitamins test explores one of the areas covered in Orig3n’s Nutrition test.
Is this overlap helpful? You could argue that giving you so many options might enable you to receive only the information that interests you, and not have to pay for anything else.
Still, the variety of options is a little overwhelming…and in some cases the differences don’t seem to justify the existence of so many individual tests.
I’m going to give you my own opinion about how meaningful and worthwhile these tests probably are, and include some actual customer feedback as well.
Also, I personally took two of the tests — Vitamins and Fitness. In the “My Test-Taking Experience” section, below, I’ll tell you what that experience was like and what my reports had to say.
Nutrition & Fitness
Many companies offer tests to help you optimize your workouts, or better reach your dietary goals, by learning what your DNA can tell you about your genetic predispositions. Orig3n has found about a dozen different ways to package DNA tests exploring this area.
Some of these tests overlap significantly. But if you read their descriptions, chances are you’ll find at least one that might be valuable to you.
Find out how well your body absorbs various vitamins and nutrients. See how your genes may affect your metabolic rate, appetite, and sugar cravings — and thus your ability to gain or lose weight. And discover if you might be sensitive to certain foods, like caffeine or dairy products.
These are the promises Orig3n makes for this test. But customer feedback has been lukewarm. Many said it didn’t tell them anything they didn’t already know.
How quickly do you recover from exercise? How do your genes affect your muscle strength? Are you more likely than most people to get sore joints? How efficiently does your body process oxygen? Are you built for speed or distance?
That’s the type of questions this test aims to answer. If you’re serious about exercising, learning about these genetic predispositions is supposed to help you take your physical fitness to the next level. Unfortunately, many customers report that they felt this test produced inaccurate results.
I took this test. Keep reading to see what my report said about me.
Hunger & Weight
This product encompasses the hunger and weight-related aspects from Orig3n’s Nutrition test (above). I’ve seen some very positive customer testimonials about it, to the effect that it helped people improve their weight loss strategies, and that it was well worth the price.
Addressing just the metabolic component of Orig3n’s Fitness test, this offering may help you understand your body’s inborn tendencies to store and process fat. And it’s available at a highly reasonable price.
But this test doesn’t strike me as being very different from Orig3n’s Hunger & Weight product (above). So why does the company offer both? I asked its customer support team. The answer I got wasn’t really an answer. See the “Support” section below.
Find out about your genetic traits involving range of motion and response to the stress of exercise, so you can take better care of your tendons, ligaments, and cartilage. The results of this test may prompt you to modify your exercise routine in a lower-impact direction.
These musculoskeletal traits are also evaluated in Orig3n’s Fitness test.
Orig3n’s Superhero test aims to evaluate your genetic predispositions involving strength, intelligence, and speed. It’s intended to help you discover your “superpowers.”
I have my doubts about its value. For example, the strength part specifically looks at whether you have a rare genotype that confers greater muscle strength. But just because you don’t have that genotype, that doesn’t mean you’re incapable of being physically strong.
How well can you absorb vitamins? This test will tell you if you have genetic variants associated with poor absorption of vitamins A, B6, B12, C, and D, so you can adapt your diet and nutritional supplementation to compensate.
The cost of this product is pretty reasonable. If you have reason to believe you’ve got a nutritional deficiency, or are just curious about your nutritional needs, you may want to take it.
I took this test. Keep reading to see what I learned.
And by the way, Orig3n sells “personalized vitamins tailored to your DNA,” available as a 3-month, 6-month, or annual subscription. I’ll discuss the costs in the “Pricing” section.
Learn how your genes may influence your nutrition absorption, endurance, musculoskeletal strength/flexibility/efficiency, and recovery from exercise.
If you’re a serious runner, this information might help you tailor your diet and training to improve your performance.
U.S. Ski & Snowboard Team
This test is so-called because it’s the official DNA partner of the United States Ski and Snowboard Team. It examines your genetic predispositions around resistance to cold temperatures and high altitudes…recovery from exercise…your “spirit” (i.e. compulsiveness, mood, memory, panic, anxiety, etc.)…and general athleticism.
My question is, if this test confirms that you’re genetically “good at this stuff,” how does that help you? And if it says you’re not cut out for weather extremes, are you going to quit?
Other Nutrition & Fitness Tests Available from Orig3n:
- Recovery & Renewal
How Orig3n’s Nutrition & Fitness Tests Compare to Your Other Options
Many of my comments about Orig3n’s health & wellness tests apply to the company’s nutrition & fitness tests as well: a lot of them are quite affordable, the wait times can be quite long, and they’re only available in the United States.
But it’s worth pointing out that some of Orig3n’s competitors in this particular area also offer separate tests on similar, highly specific topics — notably Helix. I haven’t taken Helix’s tests, so I can’t tell you which company would give you more meaningful insights on diet and fitness.
Other DNA Companies to Consider for Nutrition & Fitness Testing:
- Helix: Like Orig3n, this company offers individual tests on fitness and diet. Helix uses a technique called exome sequencing instead of genotyping, which may (or may not) yield more accurate results.
- Vitagene: A single basic test encompasses many different aspects of nutrition, metabolism, and fitness.
- HomeDNA: Healthy Weight test provides genetically tailored exercise and diet plans.
Scrape Your Cheeks. Then Wait Six Weeks. (Or Possibly a Lot More.)
I took Orig3n’s tests for Fitness and Vitamins. I’m going to show you what’s included in the test kits, what sending in your samples is like, and what I learned when I got my results.
What Comes Inside the Box
An Orig3n DNA test kit contains the following:
- A cotton swab with a built-in protective cap
- A plastic sample collection envelope
- A return envelope
The Sample Submission Process
Taking an Orig3n DNA test is very similar to getting tested through other companies. Similar, but not identical.
- First you order your test kit. (There are a lot of different test kits to choose from.) But you can only order an Orig3n kit if you reside in the United States.
- Once it arrives, you download Orig3n’s LifeProfile mobile app, create an account, and enter the serial numbers that came with your test(s). (Don’t forget that part!)
You can only create an account with this mobile app. You can’t do it on the company’s website
- Wait at least 30 minutes after eating, drinking, chewing gum, etc.; then rub the swab against the inside of one of your cheeks for 30 seconds.
- Put the swab in the collection tube, put the tube in the return envelope, and mail it. The postage is paid.
- Wait 4-6 weeks.* Orig3n will email you when your results are ready.
- To view your results, you’ll log in to the mobile app. Your report will explain what your test has uncovered, how Orig3n reached these conclusions, and what implications these discoveries might have for your lifestyle.
I REPEAT: You must live in the United States to order an Orig3n test kit. And you must get their mobile app to create an account.
*I’ve read a ton of customer complaints saying Orig3n failed to have their results ready in 4-6 weeks. One customer said they were still waiting several months later.
…And then there was my total testing nightmare!
My Total Testing Nightmare
Here is a summary of my long and extremely frustrating experience with Orig3n:
- I mailed in my first DNA samples on 11/23/19.
- On 12/3/19, I got an email acknowledging receipt of my samples.
- On 1/3/20, I emailed Orig3n to ask if my results were ready yet.
- On 1/30/20 I got this email:
I never got a response to that complaint.
- On 2/4/20 I received my new set of test swabs, collected new DNA samples, and mailed them in.
- On 2/10/20, I got an acknowledgement that my second set of samples was received.
- On 2/20/20, I got an email saying that my DNA analysis was underway.
- I got the same email again on 3/4/20, 4/17/20, and 4/20/20.
- On 5/15/20, I followed up… and was told that my set of samples from 2/10 didn’t contain enough DNA for my analysis to be completed.
- On 5/16/20 I received a new test kit. I mailed my third set of samples back to Orig3n on 5/18/20.
- I finally got my results on 6/9/20.
Now, that’s a pretty quick turnaround by Orig3n’s standards — three weeks. Maybe they expedited their analysis out of sympathy for how long I’ve been trying to get my DNA results. Or maybe the company’s test volume has been lighter than usual due to the Covid-19 pandemic, so things were moving along faster.
But, I’ve gotta say: I’ve taken at least a half dozen different companies’ DNA tests by now. No other company has ever told me that my samples didn’t contain enough DNA.
And more importantly, you’d think that if Orig3n did have trouble extracting enough DNA from my samples, they’d have emailed me to let me know. But no! Only when I took the initiative to follow up with them did they inform me of this issue. Twice.
How is this company still in business?
Not Sure How Useful This Information Is…
When I finally received notification that my Orig3n results were ready, I opened the company’s LifeProfile app to view my Fitness and Vitamins reports. Here’s what they look like.
This is the home screen of my Fitness report. It breaks the company’s findings into three categories — “Gifted,” “Normal,” and “Adapt.”
The “Gifted” category covers gene markers that suggest I may have an athletic advantage in some areas. “Normal” explores traits for which I’m genetically on par with most people, and “Adapt” looks at areas where I may be at a genetic disadvantage — and should therefore tailor my exercise regimen appropriately.
That’s a good way of looking at it. But let’s look at these individual findings and what they say about me.
One of the areas in which I’m genetically “Gifted” is in the area of cardiac output. In my ACE gene, I have a rare allele — GG — which is supposed to give me an advantage doing intensive exercises in short bursts. However, it also is supposed to mean that I may lack endurance. See Orig3n’s explanation below.
Following this “What It Means” explanation, there is a “Comments” section…
…and a series of references documenting the research on which Orig3n’s conclusion is based.
All the findings in my Orig3n reports follow this layout.
I was also able to export my Fitness report as a PDF; here’s the ACE page. It presents the exact same information in more or less the same manner…but the layout isn’t very appealing.
Anyway, I’ve gone through my Fitness report, and have noticed some interesting contradictory findings.
- My ACE gene allele (GG) means I should be good at exercising in short bursts, but not so good at endurance sports.
- And then there’s my ADRB2 gene allele (AG), also in the “Adapt” category. This means I have a propensity for less endurance and more power. “Short bursts with high intensity are the types of exercises you will want to focus on.”
- My BDKRB2 CC result means I may have trouble with endurance because of lower-than-average blood flow.
- My ADRB3 AA result means I’m supposedly average at endurance.
- However, my ACTN3 gene allele (TT) (which falls under the “Adapt” category) means I may have few or no fast twitch muscles, and therefore am at a disadvantage in sports that require quick, sudden bursts of energy. This report says I’m more likely to excel at endurance sports like biking, hiking, rock climbing, and swimming.
Help me out here. Am I better designed for exercising in short bursts, and at a disadvantage in endurance…or am I at a disadvantage in short bursts, and better equipped for endurance?
By the way, several other DNA tests have told me that I’m most likely better at endurance sports than at ones that require quick bursts of strength.
Here’s another paradox:
- My SOD2 GG allele means I’m supposed to recover from exercise more quickly than most people.
- However, my IL-6 CG result means I may recover from exertion slower than most people.
My Orig3n Fitness report just lobs these contradictory discoveries at me and makes no attempt to reconcile or explain them. So what am I supposed to do with this information?
Other findings from my Fitness report:
- My AGT AG result means I should have more trouble than most people with building muscle mass.
- My FABPT TT result means I’m at higher risk of obesity than most people.
- My GDF5 AA allele puts me at increased risk of bone and joint injuries.
I’ve heard these same things from other DNA reports.
And then there are a few genetic markers for which my results are still “pending.” So why did Orig3n tell me my results were ready?
My Vitamins report looks much like my Fitness report in terms of its layout. Here’s the upshot:
- I’m probably on par with most people in absorbing vitamins A, C, and D3.
- I’m most likely genetically disadvantaged in absorbing vitamins B6 and B12.
- My results for folate and B2 absorption are still pending. (Again, why did they tell me my results were ready when they’re really only partially ready?)
Other DNA tests have told me I may have trouble absorbing D3, but have given me similar feedback about B vitamins.
Orig3n would love to sell me nutritional supplements customized to address these possible nutritional deficiencies. But first of all, they’re quite expensive (see “Pricing,” below).
And second of all, if a DNA test tells you that you’re genetically predisposed to have trouble absorbing certain vitamins, your next step should always be to get yourself tested and find out if you are actually deficient. You might not be.
As I say in all my reviews, just because a test tells you that you’re more likely than most people to have a particular trait, that doesn’t mean you actually have that trait.
A Wide Range of Costs for a Wide Range of Options
Orig3n’s most comprehensive products — Nutrition, Fitness, and the Fitness and Nutrition Bundle — are pricier than a lot of other commercial DNA tests for health and wellness or diet and fitness, such as Vitagene’s complete health and ancestry report. On the other hand, Helix’s most comprehensive wellness tests are comparable in price.
The next (lower) tier of Orig3n products are pretty affordable. A lot of Orig3n’s most focused tests fall well below $50, which puts them among the least expensive DNA tests I’ve seen.
The question is, which Orig3n tests are worth the expense? Some look helpful, some don’t. Some have satisfied a lot of customers, others have generated a lot of disappointment.
I recommend taking a good look at the Orig3n offerings that are most appealing to you, including their prices. Then ask yourself these three questions:
- If this product gives me everything I’m hoping for, will I feel like I got my money’s worth?
- If my report doesn’t give me amazing, accurate, and actionable discoveries about my body, will I feel like my money was wasted?
- If I don’t get my results within 6 weeks, will that drive me totally crazy?
If the answers to those questions are yes, no, and no, respectively, then go ahead! Otherwise, proceed with caution.
As for Orig3n’s new personalized vitamin subscription, you can buy it on either a 3-month, 6-month, or annual basis. You get the lowest monthly fee ($59 US) if you buy the annual subscription; but that adds up to a little over $700 US a year. A high price to pay for vitamins, in my opinion!
Orig3n accepts all U.S.-issued credit or debit cards, PayPal, Apple Pay, and Google Pay.
Less-Than-Impressive Help for the Disgruntled Customer
When considering a DNA testing company, it’s worth knowing how responsive that company will be to any questions or problems you might have. Here is how Orig3n stacks up.
Your first option for getting support is reading Orig3n’s FAQ form. Compared to other DNA companies’ FAQs, this one offers very few answers.
Your next recourse is to submit an online help request. (I didn’t see any sign of a phone number on Orig3n’s website.)
I’ve already walked you through my frustrating history trying to get my DNA analyzed by Orig3n, and so you’ve already seen some of my interactions with their customer service team. But here are a few more examples.
Note the 5-day lag before I got an answer. Also, as far as I can tell, it is not possible to view one’s results at lifeprofile.orig3n.com.
I also asked:
Do you notice how the response didn’t answer my question about the differences between the two tests?
I mean, I gather from this reply that the main distinction is the specific genes that are tested. But that’s not the point. What I wanted to know is, what information would I get from one test vs. the other?
After I sent my samples in, I submitted a few more questions:
How long will it take for me to get results from my tests? Will Orig3n provide access to any kind of genetic counseling if I have any questions about my results?
I got my first answer via email five days later:
My second answer, written by a different person, arrived a week after the first:
These answers are a little better than the answer I received to my first support question. But I find it odd that Orig3n didn’t send me just one reply. This company’s support staff just don’t seem to be very organized.
But enough about my experiences. Let’s also take a look at what other customers have said about Orig3n’s customer support.
The most widespread complaint I’ve seen is that lots of people got their results much later than expected. When they contacted Orig3n to ask when their reports would be ready, they were assured that it “wouldn’t be much longer.”
One customer emailed Orig3n no less than 15 times, trying to either get their results or get their money back, and never received either.
And that’s not an isolated incident. It has also happened to many other people.
This alone may give you pause about ordering a DNA test from Orig3n.
But if that’s not enough…
Between 2015 and 2018, 17 of the company’s employees filed whistleblower complaints, alleging that Orig3n routinely cut corners, doctored test results (or made them up altogether), and failed to meet basic scientific standards, such as preventing specimen contamination.
This story was reported in quite a few news publications towards the end of 2019., Apparently, the company had been having problems with the accuracy of its tests — and instead of fixing that issue, it simply made up test results to cover it up.
Has Orig3n cleaned up its act since then? I don’t know. But after being caught committing these kinds of ethics violations, a company would have to do a whole lot to regain my trust.
And as of this writing, most of Orig3n’s tests are marked “SOLD OUT” on the company’s website. That doesn’t bode well!
Your Results May Satisfy…If You Ever Get Them.
Orig3n offers a lot of different DNA tests in the health and wellness/diet and fitness space. If you’re looking for ways to improve your self-care, appearance, nutrition, diet, and/or exercise, you may find one or more tests here that could benefit you…assuming you can trust your test results, in light of the company’s history.
The tests’ cost varies. The amount of information they provide varies. The level of customer satisfaction with the results varies. And that’s if you actually receive your results from this company. Many haven’t been so lucky.
In my opinion, Vitagene is a much more worthwhile investment. This company’s single test covers most of the same ground as all of Orig3n’s tests put together, and gives you actionable sample menus and workout regimens to help you optimize your diet and fitness.
Another choice well worth considering is 23andMe’s Health + Ancestry test. The reports I’ve received from this company have been so high-quality, detailed, and meaningful that I really felt I’d gotten my money’s worth.
Frequently Asked Questions
How does Orig3n work?
Taking an Orig3n DNA test is very much like taking any other DNA test. You order a test kit, collect your DNA sample by scraping a swab against the inside of your cheek, and mail it back to the company.
Once Orig3n receives your sample, you wait 6-8 weeks — or possibly longer! — for the company’s specialists to sequence your sample, analyze your DNA, and prepare a report. Basically, they are looking at specific gene markers to find out what genetic traits you may have in specific areas.
When your report is ready, Orig3n sends you an email to let you know; and then you can view the results on its LifeProfile app.
Is Orig3n legit?
Yes, Orig3n is a real company … in the sense that real people work there, and it does actually sell real DNA test kits, analyze customers’ samples, and give them DNA reports.
However, Orig3n has been accused of serious ethics violations by at least 17 former employees, who said the company discovered inaccuracies with its tests between 2015 and 2018, falsified customers’ results to cover that up, and also hadn’t adequately protected customers’ DNA samples from contamination.
So, is Orig3n “legit”? Let’s put it this way. In light of these allegations, plus many customer complaints about how long it took them to get their results — if ever, plus my own experiences, I wouldn’t recommend Orig3n. At all.
Orig3n vs 23andMe — which should I choose?
23andMe offers a single DNA test for $199.00 that will give you a huge amount of information about your ancestry, your genetic health risks, whether you may be a carrier for certain diseases, and what your genetic predispositions are around eating and weight loss, exercise, lactose tolerance/intolerance, and a bunch more.
I’ve taken 23andMe’s test, and have been not only satisfied but extremely impressed with the accuracy, quality, and thoroughness of my DNA report. Knowing what I know about both companies, I would pick 23andMe over Orig3n in a heartbeat.
The only thing that might tempt you to go with Orig3n anyway is that its highly specialized individual tests might tell you exactly what you want to know about yourself — no more, no less — and could do so more affordably than the comprehensive test from 23andMe.
Given their specialized nature, some of Orig3n’s individual tests might be more detailed than corresponding sections of the 23andMe report. But in my experience, that was not the case.
Anyway, to get anywhere near the overall scope of information found in 23andMe’s $199.00 report, you’d have to buy Orig3n’s Fitness and Nutrition Bundle for $249.00.
Which health DNA test is better — Orig3n or Everlywell?
Orig3n and Everlywell each have many distinct tests to choose from. There is a little bit of overlap between the tests available from each company, but there are also many differences.
For example, Everlywell has individual DNA tests for women’s fertility, peri- and postmenopause, men’s health, various sexually transmitted infections, and Lyme disease. That puts it in a special league of its own, because it’s testing you (among other things) for acquired health issues rather than ones you might have been born with.
So one way of deciding between Everlywell and Orig3n is, which company’s tests address the things you’re most interested in?
Another is cost. Everlywell’s tests can be very expensive. For instance, its sleep and stress test costs $249.00. Its women’s health test costs $399. In my opinion, these tests would have to go into a whole lot of detail, and be extremely accurate and actionable, to justify those prices.
$249 is pretty much the highest amount of money you can spend on Orig3n products — unless you also bought a personalized nutritional supplement subscription ($59/month). Most of its tests cost a lot less.
But then, Everlywell has an excellent reputation, whereas Orig3n does not.
Given all these factors, I would recommend Everlywell over Orig3n, hands down.
What is Orig3n LifeProfile?
LifeProfile is Orig3n’s proprietary mobile app. A lot of DNA testing companies have mobile apps — including 23andMe, MyHeritage DNA, and AncestryDNA.
However, what makes LifeProfile different from all of those is that LifeProfile is the only way to access your Orig3n test results — whereas with those other companies, you can also view your results on their websites.
The company says you can also view your results at lifeprofile.orig3n.com. But I haven’t figured out how.
 Bloomberg Businessweek. DNA Company Tampered With Results, Former Employees Say. September 11, 2019.
 BioNews. DNA company accused of fudging people’s genetic test results. September 16, 2019.