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Genewize - Not Wise, Not as Advertised PDF Print E-mail
Swift
Written by Harriet Hall   

Genewize http://www.genewize.com/ is a new company offering "100% Product Personalization from Your Personal DNA Assessment." They analyze your DNA to identify certain selected SNPs (single nucleotide polymorphisms) and use the data to tweak the ingredients of the nutritional products they want to sell you (containing everything from vitamins to spinach powder).

They previous offered a therapeutic skin health regimen linked to DNA-based skin health assessment. "First introduced in 2005, the Dermagenetics Skin Care System is the first comprehensive system of personalized (mass customized) skin care product manufacturing based on genetic testing that measures single nucleotide polymorphisms (pronounced "snips") in DNA."

Even if you don't know anything about the underlying science, it's easy to see some red flags on the website. Genewize sells direct to public. It is a multilevel marketing system where your own purchases are free if you enroll enough other people. The website offers the usual testimonials, which are rather vague - people claim to feel better, sleep better, have more energy, harder nails. They offer no scientific studies showing that people have better health outcomes when using their supplements. The fine print at the bottom has the usual FDA disclaimer: the products are not approved to diagnose, treat, cure, or prevent disease.

I picked one Genewize finding at random to analyze:

  • Because people with SNPs on the ApoB gene have higher ApoB levels, they experience moderate increases in total cholesterol, LDL cholesterol, and triglycerides.

What they really mean is that on average, other people with the same SNPs are statistically more likely to have these increases. What good does it do to know that? We still need to do blood tests to find out what the individual patient's levels actually are. We do that anyway, without any need for genetic testing. And even if an individual has high cholesterol, there is no evidence that taking these supplements does any good.

Knowing a SNP is really not very informative. Genes don't operate in isolation. There may be other genes whose effects interact with this one. The expression of this gene may be affected by other regulatory genes that turn this gene on and off. Epigenetic factors and environmental influences alter gene expression. We don't know enough yet for SNP testing to be of any real clinical benefit. And the evidence for any benefit from nutritional supplements is shaky at best. If you don't need any supplements in the first place, genetic analysis to improve the mix of ingredients is pointless.

Genewize is just another in a long line of companies trying to make a profit off a scientific concept that is promising but is not yet ready for prime time. Stephen Barrett and I wrote about dubious genetic testing for Quackwatch several years ago and nothing has really changed.

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written by Willy K, February 05, 2009
Oh my Harriet, you are such a skeptic! In fact Genewize is definitely looking for specific gene markers.

They are looking for the gene IGF2R. The less they find in a customer, the better that customer will be. smilies/wink.gif

Read this article to understand my little joke. smilies/tongue.gif

http://www.newsweek.com/id/92569
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Contents of the provided supplements
written by medains, February 05, 2009
This process seems horrendously costly to me... 177,000 different possible combinations (according to their own material). Do you take one pill a day? Or twelve different ones?

The only way that I can see to possibly make it cost effective for them is for them to have 36 different pills (one for each SNP, and each of their report outcomes per SNP), and supply twelve of them to each customer (but they can't be doing that, because that would be 531,441 combinations - if they ignore one of the genes and supply 11 pills of 3 types that would be about 177,000)

Manufacturing 177,000 different pills is a bit of a logistics nightmare.

The cynic in me figures that they are just slapping a "customized for Mr X" label on a bottle of multivitamins - but surely they could get prosecuted for that? smilies/wink.gif

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written by BillyJoe, February 05, 2009
If they can't even spell "wise"....
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The Profit in Suggestion
written by Realitysage, February 06, 2009
Sounds like there's red flags all over the place about this one. And yet I suspect people from all walks of life will make Genewize prosper. For some reason many folks don't acknowledge that trip to the supermarket produce section is not only a lot cheaper, but tastier as well.
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FDA Reviewed
written by DZiemke, February 06, 2009
Their website says "FDA Reviewed". What does that mean?! If I sent the FDA a vial of bathwater, with all the proper paperwork filled out and fees paid, of course, can I say my snake oil is "FDA Reviewed" too?
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Ponzi Scheme?
written by StarTrekLivz, February 06, 2009
If the stuff is free if you enroll enough family & friends (and I'm not certain that would be a friendly act!) doesn't this qualify it as a Ponzi Scheme (the kind of thing AmWay got into trouble with)? So shouldn't they be shut down for that, in addition to what will doubtless turn out to be cheap over-the-counter vitamins & herbals sold at extravagant prices?
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New marketing word list
written by paiute, February 06, 2009
Genetic analysis/DNA sequencing/SNP mapping - these are the new quantum/energy/field.

Or maybe it would be double good to use them all.

Our company provides a personalized genetic analysis based on quantum mechanical tools that use your personal DNA sequence to predict the specific shape of your optimum aura energy and allows us to shape your field using the parameters obtained from high tech, state of the art SNP mapping.
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written by The SkepDoc, February 06, 2009
It's not a classic Ponzi scheme, but it is multilevel marketing. That's not illegal as long as it follows certain rules. It's explained on wikipedia: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Multi-level_marketing It sounds like Genewize is evading the charge of illegal MLM practices by reducing the price to the recruiter rather than distributing revenues.
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written by skyhand, February 06, 2009
Genetic testing seems expensive for their profit margin. Do they really do the testing? Who knows their genetic makeup to compare?
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written by David P, February 06, 2009
Seems to me they are looking for customers with the ID10T gene.
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written by BillyJoe, February 06, 2009
Unfortuately, customers of quack remedies do not always have the ID10T or even the LOW1Q gene. Some even have Willy's IGF2R gene. Sometimes people who know things don't know that they don't know what they don't know and therefore they are easy prey for products such as these.

BJ
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Talk about being full of it...
written by swordsbane, February 06, 2009
I notice the DSA Code of Ethics they claim to subscribe to says the following:

"It ensures that member companies will make no statements or promises that might mislead either consumers or prospective sales people"

The entire GeneWize site misleads the consumer with false promises. What exactly are they guaranteeing?
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written by Cuddy Joe, February 06, 2009
Similar to the UL label in the US, which is meaningless.
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written by nelson650, February 06, 2009
I wonder what specific woo-woo pills they'll send me if I submitted my cat's dna instead of mine. ----tempting!....
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written by Cuddy Joe, February 06, 2009
Cattail extract?
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written by skyhand, February 06, 2009
I like the cat idea. I would send my cat's, but she doesn't have an extra $225. I'm sending her outside to see if she could enlist 5 of her cat friends and get it done for free.
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written by bosshog, February 07, 2009
Upon viewing their web site I was instantly struck by the fact that the marketing/business aspect of the operation was immediately and loudly heralded while the purported health benefits were only mentioned to buttress the sales pitch.
Also, back when I used cocaine my dealer sold merely to support his own habit. This reminds me of the good old days...
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written by mrhealthnut, February 20, 2009
Well, I know 10+ people that got into Genewize. I was invited by a friend and went for him. It was the usually, MLM hype. I have a couple of friends that were in Herbalife years ago so it seemed similar. The meeting was all about getting in.. NOW!!! I mean right NOW!! I didn't! My friend did! Here's the update... after over a month, not one of those 10 people have gotten their magic pills. I asked why and he said that the company is 'now' sending out vitamins that 'aren't exactly' like what the person needs. But they need 'time' to make sure they get it right. To keep down complaints, they are sending out vitamins that are close, but not exact.
He has put 4 people in and got a whopping $50.00. Not very ethical. I do not think they know what they are doing at a 'foundation level'.
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written by BillyJoe, February 20, 2009
A friend once invited me to join a company similar to Amway but when I tried to explain the unethical nature of the enterprise he was promoting, he tried to sell me the products instead. I declined, so he gave me a free trial of a kitchen cleaner. I told him later that my wife said that water worked just as well. I have no heard from him in years.
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