Ancestry.com used to sell a separate DNA test that provided health reports to customers. They discontinued this product in early 2021.
There’s been plenty of speculation as to why AncestryHealth was canned. This article covers the brief history of the product with a round-up of opinions on its short life span!
What Was AncestryHealth?
Ancestry launched AncestryHealth in October 2019 as a consumer health test that assessed genetic risk for some hereditary diseases and disorders. They sold the product as a separate purchase or as an upgrade to their genealogy DNA test.
Ancestry discontinued the health test product in January 2021.
The original health reports were provided to customers with mediation from group of physicians assembled by Ancestry. This was the press release announcing the launch of the new health test in 2019.
The involvement of doctors to mediate the reports meant that Ancestry didn’t need approval from the FDA to sell into the American market. However, they would later get FDA approval for the service.
Ancestry upgraded the underlying DNA sequencing in August 2020 and provided some additional reports with the test.
Ancestry Health specifically checked genetic risks for some specific:
- hereditary breast and colon cancers
- heart disease
- blood conditions
- connective tissue disorders
Nutrition and fitness reports
The product also provided tailored reports that advised on nutrition and fitness based on the customer’s DNA profile.
Ancestry Health customers received five reports on fitness and exercise that analyzed:
- heart rate recovery
- muscle fatigue
- muscle composition
- endurance fitness
- VO2 max (maximum oxygen use during exercise)
Six reports covered vitamins and nutrients for each of:
- Vitamin B-12
- Vitamin C
- Vitamin D
- Vitamin E
There were three reports on food and drink that predicted:
- Lactose intolerance
- Caffeine consumption
- Alcohol flush
The pricing fluctuated with special offers during the time the product was available.
In general, customers who had purchased the Ancestry DNA product could get an upgrade to Ancestry Health for $99.
The product was available as a separate purchase for between $179 and $199.
Why Was AncestryHealth Discontinued?
Ancestry provided several statements explaining their decision to discontinue the Health product.
I’ll take a look first at what the company had to say, and then I’ll cover some independent analysis. Not every company discloses the real reasons behind their business decisions!
The Ancestry explanation
If you take Ancestry at face value, they wanted to streamline their products to focus on genealogy. This quote is from the corporate blog announcement:
We want to deepen our focus on family history, including AncestryDNA, which remains an important part of our commitment to family history.Ancestry announcement
And this quote is from company spokesperson Julie Miller:
This decision simplifies our strategy and enables us to focus our resources on our core family history subscription business and AncestryDNA, which is an important part of our family history success.Julie Miller, interivew
Views from independent analysts
Business analysts pointed out that Ancestry launched the new health offering shortly before the onset of the global COVID pandemic. With the hit to the American economy, people were more choosy about purchasing non-essential products.
Another common observation was that the company had recently been purchased by equity giant Blackstone, but the Ancestry Health product was launched prior to the buyout.
There was speculation that Blackstone wasn’t impressed by how health sales contributed to the company’s accounts. But there’s been no inkling from the company itself that this was the case.
Other analysts took note of the existing customers of Ancestry.com’s genealogy services. The assumption here was that the customer base was predominantly over fifty years of age. I’ve seen this referred to as “baby boomers”, which is an American term.
The next assumption is that people in this age range were less likely to be early adopters of innovations in health technology and analysis. I haven’t seen a study that shows this to be the case!
My personal view
My personal view is that perhaps there was a far simpler reason for Ancestry discontinuing the health test.
Maybe it was a bit rubbish? Or “meh”, as the youngsters say.
I am a satisfied Ancestry customer who purchased the autosomal DNA kit for genealogy purposes, but I never bought the health product. So I took a look at some reactions and reviews on genealogy forums. Read on…
AncestryHealth Customer Reviews
Many reactions posted on Facebook and Reddit were not favorable. I think that the most disappointed customers had already used independent services that provided health analysis of their standard Ancestry DNA test.
Promethease was often mentioned, and I’ll look at it in the later section on alternatives to Ancestry Health.
Here’s a smattering of quotes from Reddit from customers receiving their health results:
Me and my mom got it and we’re kinda like…“that’s it?”
I was shocked at how little information it had when I received mine.
And these from Facebook:
I’m not too impressed by them. There seems to be a huge lack of health information.
Never been more disappointed. I did it after having done promethease and codegen [other health analysis services]. Didn’t pick up a lot of stuff.
It’s fair to say that these customers expected more information in the health reports.
Alternatives To Ancestry Health
Both Promethease and Codegen were mentioned in the comments I quoted above.
If you’re looking for an alternative to Ancestry Health, I’ll discuss a few here. (I don’t endorse any of these products).
Promethease is an online service that allows users to upload their raw DNA results from companies like Ancestry, 23andMe, or MyHeritage. The service provides reports including health analysis.
The premium version of the service costs about $12.
Remember, Ancestry was offering the health test as an upgrade to Ancestry DNA customers for a price that varied from $70 to $100. That’s a heck of a difference if the quality is similar.
23andMe offers a suite of health reports as an upgrade to their Ancestry testing service. This is probably the best-known consumer DNA health product in the market.
I’ve been a customer of 23andMe for several years. in my opinion, they were always more focused on health genetics, with genealogy seemingly as an add-on. I doubt that recent organizational changes will alter that direction.
You can read more about these changes in our article on the ownership of 23andMe.
I’ve also been a MyHeritage customer for several years, but I was surprised to learn that the company has a health product. They certainly don’t push it aggressively to their existing customer base!
The company rolled out its health test at the same time as their larger rival launched Ancestry Health.
Due to legal constraints, U.S. customers can only receive their health reports in conjunction with a doctor.
Will Ancestry Return To The Health Market?
You may be surprised to learn that Ancestry first launched a DNA testing service in 2002…which they later discontinued.
They then returned to the autosomal DNA market in 2012, and are now the biggest seller in this market. You can check out their timeline in our article on the corporate history of Ancestry.
So just because they’ve left the genomic health market, this doesn’t mean they won’t get back on the horse. I imagine they’re watching the progress of 23andMe with great interest.