DNA testing has dramatically increased in popularity over the last few years and provided hundreds of thousands of individuals from around the world clarity on their family ties and history. Now, consumer DNA-testing giant 23andMe Inc. plans to add new wellness offerings in hopes that it will help its customers lose weight and in turn, become healthier. While the idea behind the feature is great, some genetics experts say the jury is still out on the science behind the products. Recently, the California-based DNA company announced a partnership with Lark Health, an artificial-intelligence coaching service that delivers personalised advice for weight loss and diabetes prevention via an app.
Lark is a mobile app that uses AI to help people manage chronic health conditions, including hypertension and diabetes, or simply get everyday wellness coaching. According to the news release, under this new partnership with 23andMe, you can integrate your 23andMe genetic health report into the Lark app for an even more personalised wellness experience. By combining the Lark app’s health tracking data with your 23andMe report, the company says, you’ll get more personalised recommendations for your sleep habits, reminders at key times to eat foods that fuel your specific nutritional needs, and encouragement catered to your unique activity goals.
“Access to your genetic information is really just the beginning — using that information to prevent serious health consequences is the next critical step,” Anne Wojcicki, chief executive officer and co-founder of 23andMe, said in a statement. “Our collaboration with Lark enables 23andMe customers to use their genetic information in a clinically validated program to help them make lifestyle changes to improve their health.”
The Wellness Program formed by Lark and 23andMe will be available to the public for as little as $14.99 per month, and the app will also offer the Diabetes Prevention Program for an additional $19.99 a month. Both programs integrate select 23andMe report results into the Lark app to provide you with an even more personalised experience, which will include genetic weight, saturated fat and weight, deep sleep, sleep movement, bitter taste, sweet versus salty, lactose intolerance, and caffeine consumption. To use the new service, just download the Lark app, connect the 23andMe Health and Ancestry Service account, and then pick which program you would like to use.
Specifically, the Lark app works a lot like chatbot in which the AI answers your questions, sends you resources, and helps you log new health records. For those using the Diabetes Program, the health coach can even text you reminders to refill your strips or help you fulfil your strip orders. If you choose the Wellness Program, you can talk to your health coach about nutrition, sleep, stress management, behavioural health, and how to stay active.
“Genetics are really motivating,’’ Drabant-Conley said. “They’re personal, so people take suggestions more seriously.’’
23andMe has long been interested in turning its reports into actionable advice. Last January, the company kicked off a 100,000-person study to discern the link between DNA and success at dieting, with the aim of eventually providing personalised weight-loss advice.
More than two million people use Lark’s AI health coach. Its diabetes-prevention program is recognised by the Centres for Disease Control and peer-reviewed research has suggested the AI coach is at least as effective as a human one.
“You get the facts in 23andMe’s report, but real behaviour change is harder,’’ said Lark CEO Julia Hu. “What we did is to take the results, not just the markers but the intervention most relevant to a person, and serve it up at the right time.’’
While the 23andMe results themselves aren’t free, this particular new AI-based chatbot is is and you might be able to see some savings on the 23andMe partnership with Lark if you have health insurance. Either way, it’s an incredibly large step forward in the technology of DNA and AI alike.