The App and Daily Pee Test with 3 Minute Results – A Full Review
Vessel Health is a wellness company that uses at home urine tests to provide insights into diet, nutrition, and performance. They focus on recommendations for supplements and personalized nutrition plans that can be used to influence markers that appear in pee tests and can be analyzed by their App.
The company sells the test kits in packages or as part of a subscription and their paired Vessel Health app can show data about the nutrients in your pee. On the App Store the Vessel app has a 4.0 star review rating while the Android version of Vessel App only has 3.0 stars. Overall the tests are easy to take, the app is intuitive, but tests are still somewhat limited.
Looking for more info and a real review, jump to these sections:
Summary and Experience with Vessel Strips
For anyone looking for the next edge in understanding how their body is functioning Vessel is easy to get started with and use, and can make a great addition to an overall wellness plan, performance training plan, or new year resolution. Below is a summary of the experience over almost 2 years with Vessel Health test strips and the Vessel Health app.
The latest tests and app updates noted here are from 2022, which has come a long way since the 2020 launch. In July 2020 I pre ordered my first 5 home Vessel health pee tests, which cost about $50. I read that Bloom Health, which changed their name to Vessel Health, opened pre-orders for their at home urinalysis kits (pee tests!) would be making shipments soon. If there is a simple way to pee on a stick and get some actionable insights on my body, why not?
Over time Vessel has shifted from just being an App that tells the results of the tests, and more toward an overall diet and wellness app. It now contains information about your mental Focus, Nutrition Coaching, and Exercise recommendations. Each of these is tied to various health goals, which you can select in the app. Increasingly it’s becoming possible to use the app without even taking the health strips tests, though it is unlikely they will go away as it is a clear differentiator from other apps.
Accuracy of Vessel Health Strips
The only published study Vessel shares on their site is done by a third party and shows some correlation to results but does not have an ideal setup. They note that the study was only done on cards built in their lab, not the production cards they ship out, and the results show varying matches to the control samples. Accuracy of Vessel Health tests vary from as low as 67%, and as high as 98% for PH, and is different for each nutrient tested.
Methodology on the testing is also under the settings of a lab. While the shared study that Vessel sponsored (.pdf link) did use multiple sets of cars and photos, it did not also combine that with various lighting which is important when you consider taking tests in your bathroom. The study does note that “card performance has been previously evaluated under several lighting conditions”. Certainly if they were using tests to diagnose conditions this would be a concern, but for simple monitoring it is sufficient, but for general guidance it is probably fine.
The study does compare to other products that are in the market including Acon device, Predicate, Cobas device (which Everlywell uses), and Healthy.io. Compared to these Vessel’s accuracy varies but generally speaking is as accurate as any of the others.
Noted in the study they commissioned, remarks include positive sentiment “performance is similar to the one from a commercial kit system” for Cortisol (Stress) and for Ketone B “Can adequately distinguish…levels of BHB. No reliable detection system is currently available in the market”. There are also tests with more negative sentiment “compares unfavorably with similar products” for Specific Gravity. Overall the accuracy Vessel shares seems to be good at getting close to the results, which should be sufficient for making moderate changes or deciding to probe further.
Vessel Health Dietitians and Wellness Coaches
Vessel has changed their model since I originally started trying their tests. They are focused on nutrition overall, and the tests lead to diet recommendations. There is even an in app option for connecting with a nutritionist, for anyone who’s looked into a nutritionist this might be a good way to get one quickly with some actionable insights; other nutritionist typically require a good log of some form to get rolling so expect that feature from Vessel health soon.
Since trying these out I have also found Vivoo (Read the review) . Both tests claim to do the same or similar things. Comparing Vivoo vs. Vessel, the Vessel tests are much sturdier, but less reliable. In reviewing the aesthetic and testing experience Vessel is better, but Vivoo is more functional. Vivoo may have a chance to improve their test but we’ll see.
Vivoo did get better at timing and replacement tests arrived in less than two weeks. Both Vivoo and Vessel cost about the same, and both have add on costs. Vessel’s additional cost is mainly for supplements, while Vivoo looks more for a coaching/nutritionist subscription fee.
The stick based Vessel pee tests primarily use coloromatric assays. If you are unfamiliar with the term “assay” it just means a test or examination, in this case the examination of colors. Specifically the colors created by a chemical reaction of urine with the chem oaks embedded in the card. For anyone who has taken a pregnancy test (I personally haven’t but checked with some reliable sources) this is about the same thing. If you have you only ever deposited a urine sample into a cup it’s no harder to take this test although you have to wait around for a few minutes. Trust me though, the 3 minute wait is much less stressful and exciting than the same wait for a pregnancy test. That’s because the results are not really life changing. None of the tests are diagnostic of disease, and are more used as markers for what’s in your body.
The tests strips themselves are a simple inch and a half wide card with a clearly noted area to pee on. Once the three minutes are up, you scan the card with your phone camera to analyze the color lines. This was extremely frustrating as the app requires that you hold the test still and in great light, but doesn’t use the camera light. I spent a solid 3 minutes trying to get the thing centered without a shadow before caving and manually taking a picture. This might have been one reason why the results were incomplete, a few of the tests did not register (I’ll cover more on that below).
Uncompleted tests were a bummer, and felt like a waste since each vessel test is more than $10. Thankfully immediately within the app the failed test was flagged and I was supplied with a code for a free replacement test. A few moments later I clicked over onto their site and fired off an order for one, while still having half the results to go though.
Thankfully I bought a multi pack so I’ll have other tests to use during the long wait for the replacement. That wait is indicative of the stage the company is at. A quick checked of their website also revealed they are hiring manufacturing positions, and in January 2021, two months after I received my order, they shared on LinkedIn that they had Vessel Health had shipped 100k tests.
Production on this scale should not be underestimated. The chemical composition of the tests are all slightly different and any cross contamination of the reagents would throw off the results and ability of the app to gather results. While the tests appear to be shelf stable and came packaged in what appears to be a sterile and secure sleeve, no doubt there is opportunity for product failure in transit and Vessel should count themselves lucky if they make it to a few million tests without any production batches resulting in unusable tests.
Tests themselves are easy to handle, and I really liked the handy white paper holder to store the additional tests. It sits nicely and indiscreetly atop a white porcelain toilet. Packaging for the tests did seem a bit extra though as the box itself was more than 90% air. This can’t be good for Vessel’s cost of goods and is sure to be optimized to reduce shipping and storage costs as the company matures.
Tests appeared professional and the sealed bags were perforated to make them easy to open, but the rest of the packaging felt like a beta version after thought.
Scientifically Backed Results – Are Vessel Health Strips Legit?
How the vessel health strip tests are taken is one thing, but what is tested and what you can do with the information is the critical information for any daily wellness tracking. Vessel does a great job of showcasing what the science behind the tests means.
There are 6 major areas of testing. Some of them, like magnesium, B Vitamins, Ketones are directly linked to things that you can alter about your diet – which is nice. The others, PH, Hydration, and Cortisol are a mix of things that are more affected by lifestyle changes like increasing sleep or simply drinking more water and electrolytes.
These are all exciting, and the future is bright for more tests. Over time I can see Vessel adding scans for a bunch more markers. Each would require its own FDA testing, especially if they were being used for diagnosis. Still, with papers saying that diseases like cancer diseases like cancer can be detected in this method, the upside potential is huge.
According to Vessel though, their tests are not required to have any sort of FDA approval “The Vessel wellness test card falls under the general health and wellness guidelines of the FDA and therefore we are not seeking approval for it” (source).
What Does Vessel Test for? PH, Hydration, Ketone Tests and More
Of these three tests the PH has failed both times. Realistically there is no action I would alter if this was off, other than calling a doctor. Kidney and liver function might be off if this is wrong but there is no way I would trust the results and my doctors office seems to take this as well and more reliably.
Hydration is also an interesting one. The tests are taken in the morning so it’s possible this is more a sign of your sleep environment than daily hydration. Either way, a simple color check of urine does just as good of job, although after noting mine was high I did consider adding some more electrolyte type beverages (coconut water, cucumbers).
The next test was ketones. Of all the tests it appears Vessel might be optimizing for this. That is in part due to the popularity of Keto diets. Having your body in ketosis is way to increase fat burn. Measuring ketones will confirm if your high fat, high protein, Keto diet is working well.
While I am not on a Keto diet, with food tracking it’s possible to make alterations and see how this effects things. By cutting out carbohydrates drastically for a week I was able to get this reading to change fairly drastically.
Magnesium, B Vitamins Test Done by Vessel Health Strips
Each of these tests are simple to address. A daily vitamin to supplement magnesium or B vitamins is simple to acquire, and can be purchased much less expensively than the $40/month Vessel subscription.
Personally though I prefer making diet alterations before diving into supplements. With a low magnesium rating my goal is to reintroduce spinach based green smoothies! They are delicious and can be a good source of lots of nutrients. Some similar recommendations are included in the results, but it is clear that Vessel is trying to push supplements.
Sadly all the B vitamin tests failed to even register a reading. It is frustrating to see these still displayed on the App for Vessel as it’s just a reminder of the short comings. At the very least the app should be dynamic to bury inconclusive tests further down the page rather than showing them and highlighting how badly the test strips failed. Also, given the failure rate, Vessel needs to find a better solution than shipping new individual tests – there is only so many times you can redeem a voucher for a replacement before the hassle is not worth it.
Biotin especially is linked to metabolism as well as cosmetic health (hair, nails). It’s one of the main markers I was excited for in the test and so even more disappointing to have no results on both of my first two tests.
Cortisol Test with Vessel – Understanding Stress
Cortisol is another test that can showcase a number of issues. Control of blood sugar, metabolism, inflammation, memory formation – all of this relates to cortisol levels.
Typically cortisol is also thought of as a stress indicator, since it’s released by adrenal glands in response to fear or stress. Great sleep and reduced stress can bring this down and it would be interesting to see daily trends of this and map them to emotional states. Sadly again, this test failed on both tests I have tried.
Overall having having 37% of the tests fail, including this one, calls into question the legitimacy and accuracy of the others. No doubt this is a hard problem for
How much does Vessel Health Cost?
The first cost is the vessel health strips, which are about $10 per test kit. These can be had as a part of a subscription with the lowest option being $35/month and including 4 tests, which is enough for once per week. Part of Vessels business model is to upsell the plans and coaching based on test results. This in large part leads to diet changes in the form of additional supplements they will sell.
The cost for me is way too steep to consider using them just for supplements. They want to charge $40 for over the counter vitamins, that’s a steep cost Vessel Health! It totals around $20 per week for a single test and some standard vitamins, with more costs required to buy additional vitamins. Checking on Amazon the same vitamins can be had for a fraction of the cost, think under $5.
The results did do a good job of linking to studies and information to better inform diet and lifestyle changes though. Even without any coaching or counseling added on, if you want to learn more about the results the opportunity is right there so it’s questionable how valuable the “custom” coaching is over time since it is likely to share the same resources.
Home Urine Testing Market – Test Cards and Nutrition Subscriptions
Vessel is one of the only products on the market that offers these tests at home and over the counter. Their business model is based on individual tests being sold, ideally for them as a part of a regular subscription. Thankfully a monthly shipment of physical tests will ensure that you never forget about the subscription and find out you have been paying for it without using it!
The testing market however is only a portion of the value that Vessel and others can provide. Their real value is on monetizing the habits and lifestyle shifts that are recommended as a result of the readings.
Down the line there may be even more opportunities for Vessel. With the expansion of telemedicine and the integration of even more health trackers, you can tie these results to more than just a dietician. Coaching, home care, diet, and doctors as well as personal insights can all potentially benefit from this. With the right inroads Vessel is also in a good place to expand to other testing and monitoring. Since they are already in the bathroom, things like stool sample collection make sense for the brand.
Competitors of Vessel and Vivoo
There are a number of products that advertise alongside Vessel Health. Other reviews note that Vessel customer service is still working out the kinks. They have been good for me, though I can’t speak to many of the competitors I suspect they are acceptable as well.
Viome is a gut biome testing kit. They tie this to supplement and probiotic products. Similar to Vessel it is reasonable to question the incentives to have results lead to more supplements sales.
Blood Test for Athletes, is also advertised alongside Vessel Health. In a similar fashion the follow on sales push is for supplements and nutrition improvements.
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