Are genetic methylation tests worth it?

Are Genetic Methylation Tests Actually Worth It?

This assessment may be able to tell you a lot about yourself, from your potential risk of chronic disease to your estimated biological age.


enetic methylation tests are the latest obsession among the biohacker community. 

Ex-tech mogul and Project Blueprint founder Bryan Johnson uses this assessment regularly to track how quickly—or slowly, ratherhe’s aging. Human biologist Gary Brecka, Ph.D., recently told Joe Rogan on his podcast that everyone should snag one of these assessments (keep in mind: he’s selling his own at-home test), claiming that the results can help you identify which vitamin and mineral deficiencies you’re genetically prone to. 

But, adding a genetic methylation test to your longevity protocol can run you upwards of $600. Which begs the question: How reliable are genetic methylation tests, and, more importantly, what value do these pricey results add to your life? 

We asked a longevity expert to weigh in on the matter, so you can decide if this trend is just another fad or one that’s worth looking into. 

About the Expert:

Dr. Neil Paulvin, D.O., is a longevity expert and regenerative medicine specialist. He specializes in autoimmune and inflammation-based conditions, gut health, and hormone imbalances.

What Information Do Genetic Methylation Tests Provide?

Methylation is a natural process where small chemical tags, called methyl groups, are added to a DNA molecule, explains regenerative medicine doctor Neil Paulvin, D.O. (1). These tags work like on/off switches in your DNA to regulate gene expression (the process in which the instructions in your DNA turn into real functions).

“Genetic methylation tests provide information about the level of methylation at specific sites in the genome,” Paulvin says. (For context, the genome refers to the genetic roadmap in each of your cells.)” 

But, how can this information help you, exactly? The results can give you important insight into your risk of disease, your current biological age based on your genetics and lifestyle factors, and even suggest ways you can improve your health long-term (2). Here’s what the test may do for you:

Reveal your risk of chronic disease

You’ve probably heard of celebrities like Chris Hemsworth and Angelina Jolie discovering scary genetic predispositions to diseases like Alzheimer’s and cancer. Genetic methylation tests are one of the most reliable ways to reveal your risk of those diseases and others, research notes (3, 4).

Genetic methylation tests can help to identify your risk for serious health conditions, including cancer, cardiovascular disease, and neurodegenerative disorders, Paulvin explains. 

By looking at methylation patterns in your DNA, doctors can see which genetic switches are most likely to flip on—many of which you want to keep off. Your healthcare provider can then translate this information to help you tweak your lifestyle so that you can reduce the risk of these disease-related genes activating.

Estimate your biological age

Your chronological age and your biological age are often two different things. Your biological age is calculated by testing how fast your cells are aging, which can be affected by any chronic diseases or other health conditions you may have, for instance. A perk of doing a genetic methylation test? It can tell you what your estimated biological age is (5). 

“If methylation patterns in genes related to cellular senescence, or an irreversible halt in the normal cell cycle, which gets worse with age, are identified, individuals may explore ways to slow cellular aging,” Paulvin explains. 

Eating a healthy diet, limiting exposure to environmental toxins, and taking anti-aging drugs (under your doctor’s supervision) can all be a part of an effective protocol to slow down—or even reverse—aging. 

While you only need to complete a genetic methylation test once to know your genetic risks for disease and nutrient deficiency, Paulvin adds that “you can do them every six months to track any changes [in your biological age].”

Suggest lifestyle changes that may improve your health

By this point, you probably know the general advice on living a healthy lifestyle: Exercise often, eat a balanced diet, get enough sleep, manage stress, and see your doctor for an annual physical. But, an optimized lifestyle isn’t one-size-fits-all.

According to Paulvin, the results from a genetic methylation test can help you tailor your lifestyle and dietary choices based on what your cells indicate you could improve on. For example, if your doctor finds that your test results suggest you’re prone to inflammation or metabolic issues, they may recommend switching “to an anti-inflammatory diet or personalized exercise plan,” Paulvin says. These lifestyle changes could optimize your routine by turning off the genetic tags associated with those health conditions.

So, Are Genetic Methylation Tests Actually Worth It?

“Yes, I recommend genetic methylation tests for anyone over the age of 21,” Paulvin says. However, choosing the right one is important. 

There are tons of genetic methylation tests on the market—but not all will give you high quality, or frankly useful results. And, like all tests, there can be a substantial margin of error. 

A 2017 meta-analysis found that genetic methylation had a high specificity (or, the test’s ability to identify genes that are negative for a certain disease), but modest to sub-par sensitivity (the ability to identify genes that are positive for disease) for detecting gastric cancer markers (6). Researchers concluded that looking at more methylated genes increased the sensitivity of the test. 

Paulvin concurs: “I would recommend doing two or three tests to gather the most accurate data,” he says. “The accuracy of these tests are based on their volume of data and their algorithm.” 

Many at-home genetic methylation tests (like Brecka’s 10X Genetic Test) only assess up to five genes—MTHFR, MTR, MTRR, AHCY, and COMT—using a cheek swab. Other in-office tests, which are performed by a doctor, use a plasma sample and a cheek swab to test for more methylation markers (like metabolites and SNPs). 

These are Paulvin’s favorite in-office genetic methylation tests—just know you’ll have to ask your physician to administer one of these tests.

DunedinPACE from TruDiagnostic: More sensitive to short-term changes than regular biological age tests, measures the pace of aging instead of just your biological age (hint: Bryan Johnson uses this one.)

GrimAge: Can estimate time-to-death, tests eight genes (7).

“These tests are more accurate and reproducible than others on the market,” Paulvin says.