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More and more people are turning to at-home genetic testing kits to gather information about their ethnicity, personal family history, and health.

Direct-to-consumer genealogy tests have grown in popularity, especially in the United States over the last several years.

One such DNA testing service on the market today comes from CRI Genetics. Below, we’ve outlined the company’s methods, products, and customer feedback.

CRI stands for Cellular Research Institute, and it has sold direct-to-consumer DNA testing kits since 2016.

CRI Genetics is known for its ability to make complex DNA science easy to understand with tools and features that help contextualize personal genetic information. For example, CRI Genetics offers animations showing ancestral migrations and provides histories of different regions.

CRI Genetics’ products focus on four main areas: ancestry, health, allergy, and weight loss.

CRI Genetics claims to be 99.9 percent accurate. Its proprietary DNA algorithm uses hundreds of thousands of genetic markers to analyze ancestry. Though its CLIA-validated testing methods do produce ethnicity results, the accuracy of those results cannot be substantiated.

CLIA, which stands for Clinical Laboratory Improvement Amendmentsis a federal regulatory body that checks for the quality of a lab’s testing, inspections, and other factors.

What affects accuracy of genetic tests?

The accuracy of an ethnicity estimate ultimately comes down to the reference population: people from a particular area whose DNA shares a specific signature.

The larger the reference panel, the more people they can compare your results with.

Though the size of CRI Genetics’ reference panel is unclear, it is most likely smaller than some of its more well-established competitors that have been collecting reference material for longer.

Also, a cheek swab — the kind of data collection method that comes in the CRI Genetics kit — is only reliable when the sample is collected correctly.

Self-collection at home invites a higher chance of contaminating the sample and common mistakes in sample collection.

Can I make health decisions based on these tests?

You probably shouldn’t. The health side of the business has received some skepticism from the scientific community.

There is a lack of clinical evidence showing that genetic testing can actually determine the aspects of your health, such as nutrition and weight loss, that CRI Genetics attempts to report on.

CRI Genetics is best for people who are simply curious about genetic information.

Because this is not considered a clinical-grade DNA test, CRI Genetics is not designed for use by hospitals or medical professionals.

Instead, this “recreational” DNA test is intended for people looking to know what their DNA can tell them about their ancestry.

People looking for a clinical-grade test could try a company such as Color.

The basic steps to using CRI Genetics can be broken down as:

  1. Order your test online. You can choose between five different test options, depending on the type of results you are looking for.
  2. Collect and send your DNA sample. Collect your DNA sample via a cheek swab. Instructions on how to take the sample are included in the kit. Once finished, use the prepaid envelope to mail your sample to the CRI Genetics lab.
  3. Explore your results. When the results are ready, you will receive an email prompting you to log in to the online portal.

Though not without some satisfied customers, a generally negative body of customer reviews highlights CRI Genetics’ weaknesses around the breadth of its reference panel and transparency of its pricing model.

With only 1.8 out of 5 stars on Amazon, customers generally report displeasure with the accuracy of the test, a lack of detailed information, and an overly aggressive sales strategy.

However, customers happy with the service said the reports were thorough and interesting. On the Better Business Bureau website, CRI Genetics has a B rating and is an accredited member of the BBB.

On the BBB website, there are more than 600 complaints against CRI Genetics for a variety of customer grievances, including deceptive advertising, inaccurate results, and hidden fees.

CRI Genetics offers products in four main categories: ancestry, health, allergies, and weight loss.

Ancestry + Traits

The CRI Genetics Ancestry+Traits DNA test looks for more than 600,000 markers in the genome using both an autosomal test, which reveals more recent ancestry and maternal and paternal lines called a haplogroup test.

Your results will include a percentage breakdown of your ethnicity, an ancestral timeline, the haplogroup you belong to, a famous people list, and information providing historical context about ancestors.

It will also include a basic traits report, which explains how genetics may affect hand-eye coordination, hair loss, food cravings, and more.

Note that the reliability of the DNA ancestry test results may be limited by the size of CRI Genetics’ reference panel.

Ancestry + Health

This includes everything that comes in the Ancestry + Traits package, plus more than 120 reports related to traits, health and wellness, nutrition, allergy, metabolism, and weight loss.

For example, customers will receive reports that suggest how their genetic makeup may dictate their response to caffeine and alcohol, or which vitamins may be best for them.

Though the health suggestions made here are not harmful, the scientific community recommends they be considered just that: suggestions.

This is because there’s no clinical evidence to support the claims made in these health reports, and no changes in your medications should be made without first consulting your doctor.

Compare other at-home DNA testing kits

Allergy+Health

This package includes the full menu of allergy, health, and weight loss reports, without the ancestry reporting.

Customers will receive reports specifically related to their susceptibility to allergens based on DNA. They will also receive a custom weight loss profile and reports on traits, health and wellness, nutrition, and metabolism.

Note that claims made about allergies linked to genetic background are not supported by scientific evidence. In fact, study show that DNA testing is not yet a reliable indicator of how the genome will respond to specific allergens. More research with improved methods is needed in this area.

Compare other at-home allergy testing kits.

weight loss

This package focuses on reports related to weight and weight loss. It will include a custom weight loss profile, which will suggest a weight loss plan customized to your DNA, and reports on nutrition and metabolism.

Note that scientific research shows DNA is not a reliable indicator of dietary response. For example, to 2018 Stanford study found that people eating a DNA-matched diet saw no significant difference in weight change than those on a traditional diet.

Weight Loss + Health

This package includes weight loss reporting and all the other health reports available from CRI Genetics, including allergy, health and wellness, and traits.

As noted above, consumers should be aware there’s no clinical evidence DNA can accurately show the aspects of your health that CRI Genetics claims to report on in this package.

Here’s a comparison of the basic ancestry products of four of CRI Genetics’ main competitors:

23andMe is another recreational genomics company offering ethnicity results in addition to health information.

23andMe has a DNA database of 5 million records from which the data can be analyzed, reports on more distinct regions, and is considered to have a more accurate test than CRI Genetics. It is also Food and Drug Administration (FDA) authorized, whereas CRI Genetics’ health test is not.

However, CRI Genetics offers some particular features not seen with 23andMe, such as a “Famous People” section that shows people you may be related to, an interactive map showing the areas where your ancestors may have originated, and a timeline of when those ancestors entered your family tree.

CRI Genetics also offers an 8-week guarantee that’s not offered by 23andMe — if you don’t get your results back within 8 weeks, you will get your money back.

Is CRI Genetics a legitimate company?

CRI Genetics is a privately owned company with a methodology validated by CLIA and created by scientists and genetics researchers.

CRI Genetics’ tests are not clinical grade nor FDA authorized.

Does CRI genetics show Native American ancestry?

There is Native American DNA within the reference panel CRI Genetics uses.

However, both history and DNA science make it difficult to determine a specific Native American tribe. This is partly because each tribe has its own set of laws dictating who can claim indigenous citizenship.

How long does CRI Genetics take?

According to CRI Genetics, it will take 5 days for your kit to arrive in the mail from the day you order it. Once the DNA sample is received, it will take about 8 weeks for you to get your results.

Is my data secure?

According to CRI Genetics, data is kept secure by removing all identifying information as soon as the sample comes to the lab, then it’s encrypted.

You are allowed to download your DNA data, and you can request the company to delete or destroy it.

CRI Genetics has an SSL Encryption certificate for security on its site.

CRI Genetics is a solid, relatively affordable option for people interested in the recreational side of genetics.

But people wanting clinical-grade health results, or the accuracy of a more well-established reference panel, may want to investigate some larger competitors.

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