Commonly Asked Questions About DNA Tests
It’s hard to believe that it was only within the last 2 decades that we fully decoded the human genome. That’s especially incredible when you realize there are now a large number of DNA testing companies out there that sell consumers DNA test kits for use at home. The purposes of these kits vary, as do the DNA test companies.
Read on to learn more about what these DNA tests can tell you, some of the best DNA testing companies on the market, and how they work.
What is a DNA Test?
Home DNA tests are basically kits that let you take a DNA swab or sample, and send it into a lab for testing. The available tests and information that you can get from DNA testing varies but generally falls into one of two categories right now – genealogy data and personal/health/disease and similar data. Most modern DNA tests involve taking a DNA sample via a cheek swab or saliva sample.
You mail that off to the company’s lab, and in a few weeks, you get a resulting report detailing their findings, based on the options you selected when you bought the DNA test. They can provide family tree information, ethnicity and origin information, and health, disease predisposition, and other information that can help you take better care of yourself and live a better life.
Where Do You Start with a DNA Test?
The first thing to consider when you are interested in a DNA test is what kind of results you are looking for. Are you after genealogy research? Do you want to know about your likelihood of developing certain diseases? Or are you looking for health and wellness information to help you lose weight, get in shape, and be healthier? Your answers to those basic questions will help guide your choice of which DNA testing company to choose.
We highly recommend you review the best DNA testing companies, and compare and contrast their offerings and consumer reviews, including DNA tests reviews like this one. We also recommend you avoid any so-called free DNA testing services, since many are a scam. The kind of equipment and research needed to provide meaningful results means you’re going to have to pay at least a bit of money to get anything worthwhile out of the DNA testing process.
What Types of DNA Tests are Available?
There are various types of DNA tests, as we’ve highlighted above. In terms of genealogy tests, there are three primary types of tests that can provide information. The health, fitness, wellness, and genetic predisposition to disease tests are each different and more specialized examinations of particular genetic markers.
Genealogy tests utilize:
Autosomal DNA, looking at all chromosome pairs, and the X sex chromosome from your mother’s side.
Mitochondrial DNA, different than regular cellular DNA, which is inherited from the mother.
Y-DNA, only present and available in males, which looks at the Y sex chromosome to reveal the father’s side of the family tree.
How Do I Choose the Best DNA Test?
The best DNA testing choice for you is going to depend on what kind of data you are after, and what your budget may be. At least in the genealogy DNA testing and health/wellness DNA testing field, you have several good options (see our comparison table above) to choose from, all with different offerings, price points, and features. While we’ve only highlighted one disease-related DNA test company (Futura Genetics), there are others out there as well. Do your research, determine your needs and budget, and read reviews before you make your choice.
What are the Best DNA Tests?
Below, we profile 8 of the best DNA testing companies and services out there today. We’ll briefly dig into what kind of DNA tests they offer, the features and information they provide, how reliable they are, and what the costs are (and the value of the DNA tests for consumers).
- MyHeritageDNA: MyHeritage is a family tree and genealogical site, which also offers DNA testing kits for that purpose. They have a huge set of databases of information to help you create a family tree. By using their DNA test, which requires only a standard cheek swab, you can get a report in about 4 weeks that details numerous pieces of information about your origins. Information includes ethnic and geographic origins, as well as finding potential relatives based on genetic matching. The DNA test kit costs $59-$79 depending on whether or not it’s on sale.
- Ancestry: Ancestry is similar to MyHeritage, and one of their main competitors. They also offer a genealogical DNA testing kit. Instead of using a cheek swab, it requires a saliva collection, ostensibly for a larger DNA sample source. You send the kit off and get a report in around 8 weeks. Like MyHeritage, Ancestry provides ethic and geographic origin information in the report, along with potential relatives based on your genetic markers and others who have taken the DNA test. It also includes some interesting personal traits as an added bonus but is mostly for genealogical purposes. The DNA test kit costs $99.
- LivingDNA: LivingDNA is another company that offers genealogical DNA testing services. They have a 3-in-1 test, which provides regional and ethnic background information, and can include mother and father (maternal and paternal) family line data. Paternal lines are only available for male customers, based on the limitations of genetics. LivingDNA uses the common chew swab as the sample source. While no estimated or promised period of weeks for a result of the DNA tests is listed on their website, result times can vary. There are two kinds of kits available, including the basic ($99), and a premium option ($168), which includes the same information, but provides you a personalized, bound ancestry book based on your results as well.
- GPS Origins: GPS Origins, now part of HomeDNA, is also a genealogical DNA testing service. Unlike some of the others on our list of the best DNA tests, however, they are very highly focused, specifically on ethnic and regional origin data. They claim on their website to be able to pinpoint that information for up to 1,000 years back on your family tree, which is fairly impressive. Results also include gene pool percentages, and in-depth stories and information. Like several other DNA tests, they use a cheek swab as the sample collection method. Turnaround time is not disclosed or promised on their website, either. These highly specialized results, of course, cost a bit extra than some of the other DNA tests on the market, at $199 for the standard test kit.
- Orig3n: Orig3n is the first of several entrants on our list that aren’t about genealogical DNA tests. Rather, they offer DNA testing for personal traits, tendencies, behavior, fitness, and other factors that describe you, rather than your ancestors. Most of these tests are specific and targeted for a set of biological markers, and not a broad-spectrum test for everything at once. They also use a cheek swab system, as is most common among DNA tests. Result turnaround times vary based on the chosen test and other factors, with no promised time period on their site. Costs vary considerably based on the type of DNA test you get, from as cheap as $29 all the way up to $249. There are almost 2 dozen different test categories available to choose from.
- Vitagene: Vitagene offers DNA testing services that are similar to those of Orig3n, focused on health, fitness, diet, and other factors. They also offer ancestry and genealogical testing, making them one of the best DNA testing choices in terms of the scope of their services. They use a cheek swab system, and promise results in 3 to 4 weeks depending on the test types chosen and lab load. There are several options for the DNA tests they offer, including a Health & Ancestry combo test, simple health report test, and more detailed fitness, nutrition, and other health-related report bundles. They range in price from $29 to $209. The company also sells nutritional supplements and provides recommendations based on your report results as to what you should take, which is a nice bonus for many people.
- Futura Genetics: Futura Genetics is also about health-related DNA testing. However, they aren’t focused on nutrition and fitness, but rather disease predisposition. Their DNA tests check for 28 different conditions and report your risk factors and how likely you are to develop them based on genetic markers. This enables customers to make health and lifestyle changes to reduce or offset these genetic risks, and live longer healthier lives. Futura uses a spit-based collection for a larger DNA sample and promises results in 4 weeks. Conditions include in their DNA test results range from things like Alzheimer’s to Migraines, Obesity to Celiac Disease, and Diabetes to numerous kinds of cancers. Given the range of health considerations involved, it’s understandable that this DNA test costs more than most others on our list, clocking in at $375.
- Toolbox Genomics: Toolbox Genomics is similar to Orig3n and Vitagene, focused on DNA testing that reveals health, fitness, and nutrition information to customers. This helps you to develop customized plans for exercise, diet, and nutrition, to optimize your body based on genetics. Their DNA tests use a basic cheek swab, and promise results in about 6 weeks. They offer several different DNA testing packages, depending on what aspects of your genetics you want to look at, such as Health Enrichment, Weight Management, and Nutrition Optimization. All are priced at $167 each.
DNA tests offer a lot of exciting possibilities, to bring the science of genetics into your life in a practical way. From genealogical and family ancestry researc to health and wellness planning, to disease predispositions, the growing range of DNA testing companies offer you a lot of insight into your own body, past, present, and future. And the future promises more and more tests and options in this exciting new field. Ultimately, they all have the goal of helping us to unlock the secrets in our DNA, and live better, happier healthier lives.