Scientists today warned people against paying for controversial tests which claim to predict exactly how many years you have left to live.
He is one of a growing number of wealthy Americans paying for genetic tests that can cost hundreds.
They claim to work by measuring telomeres, structures on the tips of chromosomes that shorten as people age.
Studies suggest people with shorter telomeres in their white blood cells are more likely to develop illnesses like cancer, heart disease, and Alzheimer’s.
The tests are done solely using blood work and a a swab of the inside of a person’s cheek.
Mr White, who is estimated to have a net worth of $500 million, claimed his told him he had 10.4 years left, setting him on a life-changing diet and exercise program.
Dr Arthur Caplan, a bioethicist at NYU Langone Health, says that providing a time as specific as 10.4 years is irresponsible as no one can tell the future that accurately.
While these types of results may scratch a morbid itch some have, they are not reliable for people that are not elderly or suffering from a severe chronic condition.
Dr Hank Greely, a genetics and neuroethics expert at Stanford University, compared these tests to palm reading – and say they ‘almost certainly’ are inaccurate.
Dana White (pictured) said that he took a genetic test offered by 10x Health System that said he had 10.4 years of life left at his current health
The 10x Health System website now prominently features Mr White it its marketing of its gene testing
Mr White, 53, shared his story on The Action Junkeez Podcast published on September 20.
He said that he is ‘f***ing obsessed’ with finding out the exact month he is on pace to die in.
What are gene tests… and how do they work?
Many gene tests claim to be able to give a person an accurate assessment as to how long they have left to live.
They work by analyzing a person’s genetic code and searching for certain mutations that put them at risk for illness and disease.
Telemores, structures on the tip of a person’s chromosomes, are analyzed to determine risk of illnesses like cancer, heart disease, and Alzheimer’s.
These structures will usually shorten as a person ages – signaling an increased risk of some chronic conditions.
Genetic testing can accurately give someone a risk assesment for their future chance or developing disease, but can not give a 100 per cent concrete answer
Over-the-counter tests can cost anywhere from hundreds-to-thousands of dollars each
The test found that he had significantly high triglyceride levels, putting him at high risk of suffering from a heart attack, stroke or pancreas issues later in life.
These are fat that is stored in the blood if someone consumes an excess of calories.
After the results came back, White entered a program to help extend his life – and lost 30 pounds as a result.
The 10x Health System website now prominently features Mr White atop its website home page, alongside text that reads ‘GET THE SAME GENE TEST DANA WHITE TOOK.’
It brands its gene tests as: ‘revolutionary genetic testing allows you to discover exactly how to optimize your body so you can build customized solutions based on your DNA.’
Both Dr Caplan and Dr Greely cast doubts on predictions as specific as the one received by Mr White.
‘To me, the biggest ethical problem with the DNA test is the same as the ethical problem with palm reading or other fortune telling: it almost certainly doesn’t work,’ Dr Greely explained to DailyMail.com.
‘At least, not very well. The DNA tests may work in some rare circumstances, say when someone has a powerful genetic risk for a deadly disease, like Huntington disease, which usually strikes at a certain age. But those conditions are rare.’
He says that tests may be able to give probability as to how likely a person is to reach a certain milestone – like what chance they have of making it to 70 years old – but not much past that.
These kinds of tests should still be mainly reserved for the elderly, he says.
‘In short, unless shown very convincing evidence otherwise, I strongly suspect the DNA test is worthless,’ Dr Greely continued.
He casts doubts on 10x Health System in particular.
After reviewing the company’s website he wrote to DailyMail.com: ‘I see NO reason to believe this. [On the other hand], as long as people don’t take it seriously, it’s no more unethical than a lot of dumb things we let people do.
‘But that’s a big caveat – “as long as people don’t take it seriously.”’
Dr Hank Greely (left), a genetics and neuroethics expert at Stanford University, said there is no reason to believe what 10x Health System’s genetic test may find. Dr Arthur Caplan (right) notes that insurance companies spend a lot of money predicting how long their customers live when determine premiums and other rates
10x Health System did not reply to a DailyMail.com request for comment.
Dr Caplan agrees that any test that does try to predict how long a person has left to live should deliver answers in probability, rather than certainty.
He notes that insurance companies already do a form of this with the periodic testing they perform on enrollees.
They do so using eight, family history and whether a person is suffering from chronic conditions like high cholesterol or high blood pressure – not using swabs to make exact guesses as to how long a person has left to live.
For a healthy, young, person that is not suffering from chronic disease, Dr Caplan does not see how these tests can give specific life ranges.
He also says that those offering the test must also be willing to offer help to people after they receive their results – which Mr White did receive from 10x Health System.
Whether it is help making lifestyle changes to extend length of life, or providing a person mental health support for what may be a jarring revelation.