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Review: CircleDNA gives you invaluable insights on health, traits and more

There are plenty of DNA test kits on the market today focused on ancestry discovery — but few deliver health and genetic insights the way CircleDNA does.

Billing itself as “the world’s most comprehensive DNA test,” CircleDNA offers four varieties of at-home test kits. They’re billed to to deliver results revealing important information on your health and traits.

Risk of disease, food sensitivity, endurance and fitness levels and even physical and behavioural traits are just some of the findings presented in individual reports. The analysis comes from DNA samples from users, who collect it by swabbing the inside of their cheeks.

CircleDNA is owned by genetic testing company Prenetics, which has been in the spotlight of late for its launch of a rapid COVID-19 testing method.

Lifestyle Asia has a CircleDNA premium test kit up for grabs as part of our annual Christmas giveaway. We were able to trial this kit to see what it offers.

What’s on offer

Depending on which CircleDNA kit you choose, different sets of information are offered.

The Vital kit (HK$1,490) includes reports across 14 categories centring on diet, nutrition, fitness and overall wellness; the Health kit (HK$3,990) includes reports in four categories looking at health risks; and the Family Planning kit (HK$3,990), made for those planning to conceive, is focused on the assessment of your carrier status for hereditary conditions. The Premium kit (HK4,990) is the only one that delivers reports across all categories.

The Premium kit offers the following:
– Diet and nutrition
– Sports and fitness
– Cancer reports
– Health risk and disease reports
– Dementia and brain health reports
– Family planning reports
– Drug response reports
– Stress and sleep reports
– Skin reports
– Traits and talents reports
– Well-being and pollution sensitivity reports
– Ancestry reports
– Health coaching
– Genetic counselling (free 30-minute session with a certified genetic counsellor)

The Premium kit is also the only selection that includes a lifetime subscription (available at an additional HK$499 per year for users who choose other kits), which includes free updates to new features.

All reports come with personalised action items and recommendations, and mobile and PDF reports.

Choosing a kit

I’d known about DNA test kits for a while, but never made up my mind about which company, or kit, to go with.

Comparing what each kit offers and the information I’m most interested in, I came to the conclusion that the Premium and Vital kits both make for great options.

For those who are curious about all the stories our DNA can tell us with today’s technology, it makes sense to go with the most comprehensive Premium package, despite it being the most expensive one. Otherwise, the Vital kit also offers the most essential information about our diet, nutrition and lifestyle features.

And while health information is the main draw in using CircleDNA’s services, I’d always been interested in exploring my ancestry — the reports for which are only available via the Vital and Premium kits.

Easy testing

In Hong Kong, CircleDNA works with courier company SF Express to deliver and collect its test kits, at no extra cost to the user.

After receiving the kit, we are told to register them on CircleDNA’s app — an essential step, because they wouldn’t be analysed by the company otherwise.

The instructions for specimen collection was simple: with tools provided, I took swabs inside both of my cheeks, put it in a tube, and then placed it inside CircleDNA packaging and arranged for a SF Express courier to collect it.

I received updates on the app on when CircleDNA received my kit, processed and extracted the DNA for analysing. CircleDNA estimates the turnaround to be 18 business days. However, I received my results much sooner than expected — around 10 working days after I’d sent off the specimen.

Results that inform — and bring surprises

Once my results were ready, CircleDNA alerted me via email. The results can be viewed via the app, or on a PDF version, which is available to download via the email.

The report gives clear explanations on DNA as well as the process of Whole Exome Sequencing (WES) — which the company uses to gather the information found. There’s also information explaining that the report should serve as reference, rather than medical advice or diagnosis.

Some of the findings were surprising to me, while others were in line with what I’d expected.

It turns out I have a higher predisposition to coeliac disease, am likely lactose intolerant, and have an increased need for cruciferous vegetables. I’d never experienced anything unusual with food groups that fall under the above.

When it comes to taste sensitivity, I am also classified as a “non-taster.” This means “bitterness is less bitter and sweet is less sweet.” Because non-tasters — which take up 10 percent of the population — find it harder to discriminate between low-fat and high-fat foods, they can find themselves with an increased risk of developing obesity.

I wasn’t surprised to find that I have higher needs in iodine (I use a lot of salt in my food); and higher sensitivity when it comes to spice and alcohol, since I’d long had low tolerance towards them.

An “elevated risk” in high cholesterol makes sense — a recent body check came back saying I had mildly high levels. But it was a relief to see there were no cancer-causing mutations detected, nor certain conditions that I can carry on to children.

It was amusing to see I have a higher than normal tendency for mosquito bites, too — my blood composition apparently makes me more attractive to them.

I was also thrilled to see my IQ and EQ are categorised as “excellent,” and am “gifted” when it comes to creativity.

Meanwhile, it was disappointing to see I’m considered “normal” under language ability — I assumed that because I’m bilingual that I’d be at least considered “excellent,” which is one step down from “gifted.”

And I’m not sure if I can resonate with my genetic result for mathematical skills. I’m classed as “excellent,” but I’d barely scraped a pass for public examinations in maths at school. It also said I’m less likely to have obsessions with washing/cleaning, or a smoking addiction — I’d struggled with both of these for years.

Of course, CircleDNA tells us that environmental and lifestyle factors all play a role. It’s important to note just because there is a certain risk doesn’t mean you will definitely end up with a condition. These conditions are still possible even without genetic risks. Genetic mutations other than what’s indicated in the reports are also possible.

Finally, there’s the ancestry report, which I was probably the most surprised by from the report. I am 85.93 percent Chinese, with a notable amount traced to minority groups all around the country — not entirely the south as I’d previously understood. The rest of me is Southeast Asian, with 13.62 percent of my DNA traced to Vietnam. The rest, a very small amount, is traced to various other Southeast Asian countries.

The verdict

The goal of these tests, says CircleDNA, is for people to make informed decisions about their health and lifestyles. And that’s definitely the case for me: not only is it fascinating to read through these reports and find out previously unknown information about myself, it also helps to have them as reference going forward.

CircleDNA’s Premium Test Kit retails at HK$4,990 from CircleDNA or from Watson’s retailers city-wide.

Review: CircleDNA gives you invaluable insights on health, traits and more

Andrea Lo

Covering everything from Hong Kong's dining and nightlife scene to local culture and identity; to billionaire houses and global architecture trends, Andrea is a freelance journalist specialising in lifestyle topics all around the globe. Outside of work, you'll find her at the beach, or hitting the local spa for a back-breaking bout of tui na.

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