Data is vital, but in the case of DNA and genetic testing services, having a lot of it matters even more and having less can skew test results. Such is the curse of newer, boutique or simply less established personal genomics companies.
While all DNA testing companies access and utilise public DNA databases, they also have their own databases that depend largely on the data they acquire from customers. This means that the fewer customers they have, the less precise or detailed the test results are – and most of today's best DNA tests are well established outfits.
This brings me to Dynamic DNA. This Springfield, MO-based laboratory was established in 2015, but it has only shifted its focus from molecular research to personal health, wellness and ancestry DNA testing recently, which means that it doesn't have DNA databases that are as extensive as the likes of 23andMe and AncestryDNA.
Not that you should use that against it. After all, better-known personal genomics companies have been in a similar situation in their early days. Dynamic DNA also comes with its list of merits, including the fact that it uses the more accurate Autosomal DNA testing, and its fitness and nutrition tests yield solid and helpful results, making it a promising newcomer in the direct-to-consumer genetic testing game.
Dynamic DNA test review: price and tests available
Dynamic DNA offers 12 tests, starting at $99. Four of those are proactive health-focused, and another four are on personalised medicine. That should already tell you where the company's goals lie. I have only done its ancestry, fitness, and nutrition tests, so I won't mention the others here. However, if you're curious about them, you can check out Dynamic DNA's menu of tests here.
Out of the three I did, ancestry is the most affordable at $99. That's how much basic ancestry tests are going for these days, even from the likes 23andMe and AncestryDNA. But, unlike its better-known rivals' more precise and detailed results, Dynamic DNA's ancestry test doesn't go into the specifics, making that entry price harder to swallow.
On the other hand, while its fitness and nutrition tests are a tad more expensive at $129 each, you're getting much more detailed and helpful insights about your wellness, making them a better value.
I only wish Dynamic DNA would offer customers who want to take two or more tests at a time discounted bundles. That's especially because it only sent me one sample kit for all three tests, which tells me it's saving money somewhere – on postage and materials at the very least. If it could extend that savings to customers, it might get more folks to do its tests.
Dynamic DNA test review: sample collection and postage
When you're taking multiple DNA tests at the same time with Dynamic DNA, it'll typically send one sample kit. For example, I ordered the ancestry, fitness and nutrition tests simultaneously and received just one DNA simple kit for all three. The company inserted three info cards for each test but provided just one set of its specimen collection kit. That makes things easier.
Not that sample collection is complicated. If you haven't used an at-home DNA testing kit before, you might get paranoid and think that it's too easy that you might have missed a step and inadvertently messed up the whole process. Don't worry about it too much; it's really that easy. As long as you're following the simple instructions on the back of the info card, you should be fine.
Before you do it, however, you should register your test/s online using their respective kit numbers. If you're doing several tests at once, you have to register each individually. Then make sure to write your name and date of birth on the enclosed white envelope. This is especially important because this envelope is where you'll put your swabs in for shipping, and it'll be hard for you to write your info on it with those swabs already in there.
Dynamic DNA uses saliva samples like other companies. However, while the more popular 23andMe requires you to spit into a funnel, this one takes on the CSI: Las Vegas-esque approach of swabbing the inside of your cheek. However, unlike the show, you have to swab vigorously, not gently like you see on the show. Also, you need to do two swabs, one on each cheek.
A bigger, thicker envelope with paid postage comes in the kit. Once you've sealed your samples in the swab envelope, you only need to drop it in this one and mail it in. It takes a few days for the company to receive it, but they will send you an email to notify you once they do.
Dynamic DNA test review: ancestry results
Depending on its load, it might take Dynamic DNA a few weeks to have your results. Typically, your results should be ready in less than three weeks and available online via the company's HIPAA-compliant client portal. My results took a little longer than that, but that was only due to COVID-19.
When your results are ready, you will get an email from the company to notify you. You simply have to log in to your account, which you would have already created when you registered your kits, then go to My Tests in the main menu.
Dynamic DNA's website is clean and easy to navigate, and once you click on your ancestry results, it'll take you to your main ancestry page, which displays your ethnic composition. This page will summarise your ethnic breakdown and display a (somewhat) interactive map that gives you a more visual preview of your genetics.
Unfortunately, the level of interaction this map offers is simply to highlight an area when you hover your mouse over it. Other personal genomics will let you click on certain areas to provide more details about the specific regions of your ancestry.
That leads me to one of my biggest gripes about Dynamic DNA's ancestry test. The results are not very specific. For example, my result says that my ethnicity is 42.4% North Asian and 47.3% Eastern Asian, but it doesn't tell me which countries or regions. East Asia encompasses China, Japan, Mongolia, North Korea, South Korea, and Taiwan, so saying that I'm 47.3% East Asian doesn't help me much. I've also been told that I'm part Chinese, so learning that I'm supposed to be 42.4% North Asian and not having a lot of details to help explain it only leads to more questions.
That's on top of the fact that it doesn't seem very accurate to me. My parents are of East Asian and Southeast Asian descent, and my mom has Spanish roots. However, the Southeast Asian section in my result has 'N/A' next to it. Meanwhile, my 'Spanish' ancestry has been reduced to less than 1% and simply 'broadly European'.
I emailed Dynamic DNA about the Southeast Asian section. A lab manager has responded, saying that, "we certainly have data for Southeastern Asia in the database, but there seemingly was not enough diversity in that data to correctly weigh your data." This reinforces the general knowledge that personal DNA testing is only as good as the available data. While the company claims that it uses "over 30 unique populations from across the globe and tens of thousands of genetic markers to determine your ethnic breakdown", it doesn't have enough to compare my genetic markers in the Southeast Asian region.
At least their customer support is very responsive. Unfortunately, their phone number isn't manned at the moment, but I received a response within 24 hours after sending out my email. The lab manager who helped with my concerns said he would be "reviewing our system to ensure that this geographical region is getting called correctly" and offered to amend my report following this review. However, I don't know how scientific that would be without a stream of new data from the Southeast Asian population.
Dynamic DNA test review: nutrition and fitness results
It's in the nutrition and fitness results where Dynamic DNA shines. While details in its ancestry test results are sparse, its nutrition and fitness results get into specifics, which isn't surprising as the company plans to focus on health and wellness services.
Before I get into the specifics here, it's essential to define each test, even if it may be self-explanatory to some people. Nutrition focuses on your nutritional needs, reactions to food, and eating behaviours. On the other hand, the fitness test looks at your build, cardiovascular functions, metabolism, and response to exercise.
Dynamic DNA are two other proactive health tests – skin and personality – and they might be helpful to you as well if you want a holistic approach to your health and wellness. Both nutrition and fitness tests give you a lot of insight into how your body reacts to food and exercise, and what you need to do to improve your lifestyle.
The nutrition report tells me what kind of diet my genotype responds best to, what glucose, cholesterol and iron levels I'm more likely to have, and the metabolic rate people with my genotype typically have. It also tells me things like how fast I'm likely to metabolise caffeine, if I'm genetically predisposed to having higher calcium levels, and if I'm likely to prefer savoury food.
Because this isn't a blood test, it's not going to give you results that are specific to you. For example, it's not going to tell you whether or not you are lactose intolerant. However, based on your genotype, it'll let you know if you have a higher or lower chance of developing lactose intolerance. Similarly, it won't tell you where you currently stand in the obesity index. Instead, it'll tell you, based on your genetic factors, whether you are at risk of becoming overweight.
Therefore, taking the nutrition test gives you insight into how your body is likely to function based on your genotype. And, there's a lot of it, covering diet, weight loss, metabolic health factors, nutritional needs, food reactions, and eating behaviours, all of which will help you get to know your body better.
The fitness results are just as expansive. It offers insights into pain tolerance, predisposition to hypertension during exercise, and risk for injury. For example, I've learned that my acvr1b allele often means naturally stronger muscles and that I may have higher bone mineral density, so I have lower chances of getting a bone-related injury. However, I also have a slightly increased risk for developing osteoarthritis and tendinopathy.
These two tests will undoubtedly offer a deeper understanding of your body, and they're great if you want to personalise your diet and/or home your fitness regimen and daily workout.
Dynamic DNA test review: verdict
Is Dynamic DNA worth using over other direct-to-consumer genetic testing companies? Because its database is not as expansive as its rivals, you're likely to get more accurate and detailed results from more established companies. They have, after all, a much more extensive database with which to weigh your data.
On the other hand, if you're looking for deeper insight into your genetic predispositions regarding food, diet, and exercise, Dynamic DNA's fitness and nutrition tests will give you just that. You'll get general and very specific data to help you nail down your personalised diet and fitness routine to live your best life.
Dynamic DNA test review: alternatives to consider
Out of all the personal DNA testing services, 23andMe is probably the most name-dropped. The company's Health+Ancestry DNA test is one of the most popular out there, and their database is extensive enough to offer precise key details like from which region in France, for example, you can trace your lineage. At $199, this dual test is a great value, considering what you're getting.
If you only want to focus on ancestry, Ancestry DNA is said to have the largest database out of all the testing services out there. And, its reports are so thorough you can use your results to find distant family members and unknown relatives. This service starts at $99.