SelfDecode review – Can it help you “hack” your genes?

SelfDecode Review Summary

SelfDecode is a genetic testing service that provides regularly updated health recommendations. Learn more in our SelfDecode review!

Honah Liles

Results
Price
Access to exploration tools

Summary

SelfDecode provides information regarding genetic health risks as well as updates and tools to explore data although it does require an annual subscription to SelfDecode.

3.7

7 Facts from our SelfDecode Review

  1. Location: California, United States
  2. Products: Genetic testing and DNA data upload
  3. Reports: Disease risks and traits; regular updates; tools to explore DNA data and an AI to get customized recommendations
  4. Raw data access: Yes
  5. Privacy: Provides a detailed list of utilized security technologies
  6. Cost: $97-$297; requires an annual subscription or lifetime access purchase; no free options
  7. Alternatives: Nebula Genomics (free options available)

This review is written with the intent to be as unbiased as possible. However, it represents the opinion of an individual reviewer and is therefore subjective. Furthermore, at Nebula Genomics we seek to educate the public about the benefits of Whole Genome Sequencing. Information about our Whole Genome Sequencing DNA test is therefore incorporated into the review.

May 9, 2022

Pros and Cons

Pros

  • Tools for exploring your DNA
  • Variety of reports available with recommendations based on your genetics
  • Can import DNA data or buy a genetic test
  • Blog with articles on scientific research

Cons

  • No ancestry or genealogy tools
  • No reviews on third-party sites
  • Additional reports cost more

SelfDecode Introduction

SelfDecode (Self Decode) is a personalized DNA testing and digital health company founded in 2016 by biohacker Joe Cohen. Cohen also started SelfHacked, an online library of blogs on genetic and health research, and Lab Test Analyzer, a site that provides a list of optimal ranges and recommendations based on your genes.

Cohen describes SelfDecode as a service for people who want to understand how genes affect their health and ways to optimize it. To help them do this, SelfDecode aims to provide science-based reports explaining medical conditions associated with genetic variation in different genes. The company describes how your genes affect your health.

SelfDecode also offers tools to explore your genome and a blog connecting your DNA to genetic research. 

Looking for DNA data to upload to sites like SelfDecode? Unlock 100% of your DNA with Nebula Genomics Whole Genome Sequencing! Enjoy the benefits of crystal-clear and accurate health and ancestry reports. Click here and get started on your journey to a healthier you!

SelfDecode Products

There are options for customers who are new to genetic testing and those who already have raw genetic data from most DNA test analysis websites.

For people who already have compatible DNA data, SelfDecode costs $97 per year or $297 for unlimited access. You can contact customer support to ensure that your DNA files are compatible with the company.

For those who don’t already have DNA data, the SelfDecode DNA testing kit starts at $99. Customers can use these DNA kits to get their genes sequenced at a SelfDecode lab. The lifetime membership includes lifetime access to current and future DNA wellness reports, and access to the SelfDecode personalized genetics blog.

Review of SelfDecode DNA Wellness Reports

The SelfDecode reports analyze your DNA for health issues associated with specific conditions, explain the function of different genes, and offer personalized diet, supplement, and lifestyle recommendations based on your genotype.

To start, all users receive the basic personalized health report. It looks at genes associated with nutrition, fitness, and cognition/personality. Users also have access to three free reports a year, with the option to purchase more. Depending on your health goals, you can choose from:

  • Inflammation (Did you know you can test inflammation markers at home? Learn more in our article about at home inflammation tests).
  • Cardiovascular
  • Sleep
  • Vitamins
  • Minerals
  • Mood
  • ApoE (a protein involved in metabolizing fats)
  • Fitness
  • Cognitive function
  • MTHFR gene (encodes proteins to process the vitamin folate)
  • Longevity 

The reports start with a summary of traits associated with different genes and gene-based health information, including risk of certain health conditions. For example, this Mood Report for founder Joe Cohen emphasizes Joe’s higher genetic risk for depression and anxiety. 

Example of the SelfDecode Mood report
The report summary emphasizes the risk for a given reported trait

After the summary, the report breaks down detailed information as to which SNP (single nucleotide polymorphism, also referred to as “variant”) you have and the associated risk: 

List of SNPs that are associated with mood disorders from SelfDecode
List of SNPs that are associated with mood disorders

The report provides a detailed explanation of each SNP and your personal genotype. For instance, the SNP rs1800497 is part of the DRD2 gene, which encodes a dopamine receptor. Joe’s genotype, AG, means he is likely to have fewer DRD2 receptors and therefore is at risk of negative moods. 

A detailed explanation of SNP associated with mood disorders from SelfDecode
A detailed explanation of SNP associated with mood disorders

The reports are meant to be for informational and educational purposes only. SelfDecode does not treat, diagnose or cure conditions. However, it does give advice on how to counterbalance the negative impacts of some genetic variants. For example, Joe’s Mood reports suggest that regular exercises can boost his DRD2 dopamine receptors levels. 

Review of SelfDecode Personalized Genetics Blog

The company provides personalized health recommendations based on genetics. Anyone can access the blog and read the articles, but for SelfDecode customers, each article comes with a personalized score based on their DNA.

To make the lab test results easy to understand, they are classified as “good”, “neutral,” or “bad” depending on how your genotype influences the risk of disease or trait (e.g., brain fog). This provides personalized insight into how your health might be impacted by the findings discussed in the article. However, SelfDecode states that it does not provide medical advice, and the reports are for informational purposes only.

There are multiple blogs published every month on topics like inflammation, respiratory infections, blood sugar, and susceptibility to COVID-19. You can filter posts by category or use the search function to look for articles on a specific gene or condition.

The introduction to the posts all follow a similar format. The name of the gene discussed in the title and an explanation of what the gene does. 

For example, the figure below shows a blog post that breaks down the genetics of lactose intolerance. 

Post on Lactose Intolerance on the SelfDecode Personalized Genetics blog along with a “neutral” score
Post on Lactose Intolerance on the SelfDecode Personalized Genetics blog along with a “neutral” score

The article explains the condition first and then discusses the basic biology and genetics of how lactose intolerance occurs in the body. Then, the genes that play a role in the condition are explained. In this case, the article focuses on the MCM6 and LCT genes. The post then breaks down the variants that can affect how these genes work. 

Finally, the user is given their genotypes for the analyzed variants and their impact on disease risk.

Table with genetic variants on the SelfDecode Personalized Genetics blog
Table with relevant SNPs on the SelfDecode Personalized Genetics blog.

Each post is well-cited, with links to published peer reviewed studies. Most of the blog posts are a summary of information, not articles on cutting-edge research. 

Review of other SelfDecode Tools

Your genetic information is organized into health categories and lists of genes. These “gene packs” help you easily see which gene variants might be impacting your health the most. 

Four gene packs organized in tables with the list of genes belonging to every pack
SelfDecode GenePacks categorize genes and variants

There are lists of so-called “bad genes” associated with unfavorable conditions. For instance, you might find you have a variant in the ADAM33 gene associated with asthma. There are also lists of what SelfDecode considers rare and important SNPs in your genome. 

For instance, under the “Aging” topic and the “Eyesight” category, you may have certain alleles for the SNP rs6726395. Those alleles might put you at an increased risk for age-related macular degeneration. That is, you might be at risk of losing your eyesight as you get older.

SelfDecode also offers tools for searching your genome. These include the symptoms and conditions analyzer in which you can search for genetic variants by condition, like asthma, or by substance, like coffee or ibuprofen. Tools like the substance explorer then show you the genes and variants in your genome that are related to your searches.

Another tool that SelfDecode offers is an advanced AI that provides personalized health recommendations based on results.

Review of SelfDecode Privacy

SelfDecode promises never to sell your data or share customer data with third parties without explicit consent unless required by law. If the company receives a court order or search warrant for your genetic information, SelfDecode says it will notify you, if possible. 

For users concerned about privacy regarding health data, SelfDecode suggests using a pseudonym. Otherwise, the company collects as little identifying information as possible. 

To further protect your information, SelfDecode says only “vetted and trusted” employees have access to the site’s backend. Additionally, only one person has access to the text files of data. 

The security measures used by the company to protect user privacy meet modern technological standards. In this way, it claims to be able to analyze up to 83 million genetic variants with minimal risk to users’ privacy.

SelfDecode in the News

SelfDecode didn’t make much headway in the mainstream news in its first four years.  Joe Cohen, the founder, was mentioned in Scientific American and featured on the podcast Evergreen Profits. Notably, Cohen made headlines in 2017 when he offered a $10,000 reward for anyone who found him a girlfriend. Two years later, he appeared on Good Morning Britain with his girlfriend to discuss how SelfDecode helped her learn to treat her mood issues. 

Fast-forward a little to a couple of years ago, and the company has cemented itself as a solid enterprise and health software. Cision reported that the company had raised $1MM in a crowdfunded investment round in October 2021 and $8MM in November.

SelfDecode Reviews

Is SelfDecode worth it? SelfDecode features positive reviews on its website, but there aren’t many available on other review websites. There are mentions on Reddit

Nebula Genomics

Nebula Genomics distinguishes itself from SelfDecode and other DNA testing websites through our focus on privacy, our research library, and our DNA sequencing-based test. 

Privacy

At Nebula Genomics, we are privacy-focused. We are developing technologies to enable secure genetic testing and DNA data analysis. We also allow our users to share their DNA data with researchers without risking their privacy.

Nebula Research Library

Our understanding of human genetics is advancing every day. With the Nebula Research Library, you can find articles explaining the newest research and studies. This provides insights into the most current information about your genetics.

Free DNA reports

We offer users free expanded DNA reports. When you upload raw DNA data from 23andMe or AncestryDNA to Nebula Genomics, we use a process called imputation to fill in the gaps in your genetic data. The result is a report on hundreds of genetic traits. 

Whole Genome Sequencing

For even more information about your genome, our 30x Whole-Genome Sequencing decodes your entire genome. That is 10,000 times more information than other testing companies like SelfDecode provide. 

Here is a comparison of SelfDecode vs Nebula Genomics and other popular DNA testing companies:

  SelfDecode 23andMe AncestryDNA Nebula Genomics 
Focused on privacy No No No Yes (learn more)
Free DNA data uploadNo No No Yes. Imputation generates an expanded report 
Updates based on new research NoNo No Yes, regular updates (learn more)
Tools to explore data Yes Limited Limited Yes (learn more)
Ancestry reporting No Yes YesDeep ancestry reporting with full Y chromosome and mtDNA sequencing
Cost   $97-$297 $99 or $199 $99 or $119 $0, $99, $299

If you are interested in tools to explore your genetic data, you should also take a look at Genetic Genie, which is completely free. Another option to consider is Promethease ($12).

If you are interested in genetic testing that will help you achieve your health and fitness goals, there are a lot of products to choose from. You can learn more about your options on our website including:

There are a lot of great supplement companies out there that may help you lose weight and get healthy (you can read about many of them on our blog!) But be careful! There are also dangerous experimental drugs out there like SR9009 and RAD 140 that are not approved for human consumption.

Did you like our SelfDecode review? You can find more reviews on our blog and check out our complete guide to the best DNA test kit and other home tests!