A DNA testing kit can tell you about your genetic ancestry and your genetic susceptibility to diseases and health problems.
They are a key part of the broader personalized medicine movement, which involves using your personal genome to plan out health decisions and disease treatments.
Knowing your ancestry, as well as your own unique genetic mutations and variations, can clue you in on what types of diseases you are prone to get. With this information, you know what you’re up against in terms of risks to your health.
The number of companies offering DNA testing kits has exploded recently, so our research team has looked into the best labs to find out who makes the best DNA testing kit, and we’ve ranked the top ten.
These DNA testing kits can help you identify your risks for disease and the best way to plan you your exercise, diet, and supplementation routines for optimal health.
1. 23andMe Health + Ancestry
23andMe is the grandfather of all DNA testing kits. Even today, every competitor is still trying to outdo this company. The DNA testing kit from 23andMe provides highly detailed feedback on your personal genetic makeup.
The Health + Ancestry kit is the one you want; it provides all of the details on your genetic heritage, plus detailed information on your genetic susceptibility to diseases and personal health.
Want to know if you’re at risk for breast cancer or Alzheimer’s disease? 23andMe tests for specific mutations linked to those conditions.
Plus, it’s got info on your genetic susceptibility to obesity, and even your athletic predisposition. With this massive array of features, it’s still number one.
2. Vitagene Unique Like You
Vitagene is a health-focused DNA test kit that provides recommendations for supplements, nutrition, and exercise based on your genetic makeup.
It’s more on the overall well-being side of DNA testing kits; it doesn’t provide details on disease susceptibility.
However, the vitamin, supplement, and exercise recommendations you get are beyond what you’d find in something from another company like 23andMe. If you want health information in the medical sense, it’s not the best choice, but it is a good product if you want information on overall well-being.
3. Silverberry DNA Kit
Silverberry focuses on vitamin and mineral needs in its DNA test kit. It provides information on specific nutritional deficiencies you might be prone to, as well as some behavioral and personality analysis results.
It’s not clear how valid these behavioral results are, but if you want some information on how your genetics might affect your personality or disposition, few other competitors offer that info.
AncestryDNA is the best DNA test that focuses on providing information about your genetic heritage–i.e. where in the world your ancestors come from.
With genetic samples from over 350 regions in the world, from Congo to Sicily to Ireland, you will get a detailed report on your personal genetic heritage.
Heritage is just one step away from health–many health conditions, like certain types of cancer, show profound variation in people with different genetic backgrounds. However, with AncestryDNA, you’ll have to do the legwork yourself.
5. Fit iQ DNA Test
Fit iQ is highly specialized: this DNA test focuses on how you can plan your diet and exercise program around your genetic makeup.
The results are fairly genetic; the report you get indicates your likelihood to have sugar cravings, or to respond to aerobic exercise for weight loss, for example, but there aren’t specific recommendations or concrete results.
The focus on weight and exercise is appreciated, but more details would make this a much better product.
myHeritage is a DNA testing kit that’s focused on providing information on your genetic ancestry. The report you get is pretty solid, with details on the proportion of your ancestry from nearly 70 different regions in the world, but it’s not as detailed as some of the other competitors.
One advantage that myHeritage has is that their reference group (the people who provided DNA samples to make up the database your test kit is compared to) is very large, so the ancestry results tend to be quite accurate.
Still, like other reports that only provide ancestry, you’ll have to do your own research on how your ancestry relates to disease and health.
7. Geno 2.0 Next Generation
The DNA testing kit from National Geographic is the ultimate “deep ancestry” tool if you’re interested in tracing back your genetic heritage.
It follows the history of your genome back up to half a million year ago. While this makes for fascinating results, it’s not particularly informative on the health front, so it is less helpful than some other competitors.
8. Color Genetic Risk Test
Color Genetic Risk Test analyzes over 60 genes specifically linked to health traits. It estimates your risk for diseases like heart disease and cancer, as well as how your body will handle certain medications. However, this company is smaller, and doesn’t have access to the large databases that some of the bigger players in genetics have, which impairs their ability to deliver more health data.
9. Family Tree DNA
Family Tree DNA is an ancestry-focused DNA test kit, but the results you get are not as precise or reliable as some of the other ancestry-focused DNA test kits.
Because of this, and because you’ll have to do your own research on how your ancestry is linked to your risk for disease, there are better options if your top priority is finding out how your genetics relate to health.
TellMeGen is a health-focused DNA testing kit that provides detailed information on specific genetic mutations for diseases from cancer to obesity, alongside tests for whether you are a “carrier” of genetic mutations that you could pass down to your offspring.
The downside is that this test is quite new to the global market–previously, it was only available in Spain, so it might be wise to wait for more reviews to roll in before pulling the trigger on this DNA test.
Who should buy a DNA test kit?
DNA test kits are getting sophisticated enough so that just about anyone can benefit from them. They give you incredibly detailed information about your ancestry, but more importantly, can provide information that’s directly relevant to your long term health.
Are you predisposed to gaining weight? Are you likely to benefit from cutting cholesterol from your diet? Are you at an increased risk for breast cancer or Alzheimer’s disease? Are you more suited for endurance or strength training?
All of this information, and much more, can be gained from a high quality DNA test kit. If you are the type of person who wants to know about your health, and you know that you’re likely to change your behavior depending on what you find out about your genetics, a DNA testing kit is a great investment for learning more about your health so you can improve it.
On top of the health information, you may also get a lot of value out of the ancestry information as well, but the real draw of a DNA test kit is definitely in the health information.
How we ranked
Our DNA testing kit rankings were based on evaluating which companies provided the most information about your genetic makeup, with a particular focus on health information.
We evaluated all of the major DNA testing kit companies, examining the turnaround time for testing, the range of data provided by the DNA test, the experiences of hundreds of customers, and any further details on the quality of the testing.
We eliminated companies that have had high-profile scandals, such as ORIG3N, a low-cost DNA testing company that was famously fooled by reporters who sent in a sample of dog saliva (1). When the test came back indicating that the canine “test subject” was well-suited for endurance and strength-based activities, but failed to notice that the DNA in fact did not come from a person.
We also looked into the history of the company, to see if they’ve faced legal scrutiny for bogus or misleading DNA test results (2). We eliminated any company that had a suspicious past, shady business practices, or reports of delayed or “lost” DNA test results.
It’s easy to see how DNA testing could be an attractive option for shady companies and scam operations: There’s no verification that the report you have received is, in fact, from your own DNA (or that your DNA was processed at all, for that matter).
For these reasons, we were even more inclined than usual to endorse the market leaders, like well-established companies such as 23andMe and AncestryDNA.
These companies are known, legitimate organizations. On top of that, they have access to tremendous amounts of data due to the millions of people who have signed up for their services already.
In the era of genetics, huge amounts of data are necessary to get new insights on genetics. While every DNA testing company has access to the published scientific literature, companies like AncestryDNA and 23andMe have their own internal database of data, which allows them to dig deeper into the human genome than what’s already been published in the scientific literature, which gives them a leg up on the competition.
We also looked into how seriously companies take your privacy. When you look at the fine print, you’ll see there’s a wide range of policies with regard to DNA data.
Some companies, like 23andMe and AncestryDNA, are extremely protective of data. While all direct to consumer DNA testing companies make money by mining DNA data for new insights, there’s wide variability in how they do it.
Some will only sell the aggregated findings from the data, while others are more circumspect about what, exactly, they do with your DNA. Some consumers have expressed concern that DNA data will eventually make its way to health insurance companies, which could charge you more money or even refuse service if you have certain genetic traits.
After aggregating the scores for each product on quality of information, efficacy, consumer experience, and privacy, we sorted the remaining products to result in our final rankings of the best DNA testing kits of the year.
A DNA testing kit can give you specific information on how your genetics will impact your health. While there’s a lot that you can control about your health through diet, exercise, supplements, and lifestyle choices, genetics plays a major role too.
There are specific genes that make you more likely to gain weight if you eat saturated fat, more likely to respond to an aerobic training program for weight loss, and genes that make you vastly more likely to get cancer.
A DNA test kit can give you insights into these traits and many more. By knowing your own genetic makeup, you can plan out your nutrition, supplementation, and exercise routines to better serve your long-term health.
DNA test kits can tell you about your risk of breast cancer. One of the first major genetic traits to make headlines when it comes to personal health was the BRCA1 and BRCA2 genes. Women with a mutation in one or both of these genes have up to an 80% chance of getting breast cancer at some point in their life (3).
Among the general population, the chance of a woman getting breast cancer at some point in her life is only 12%. Doctors estimate that up to 10% of all cases of breast cancer could be caused by BRCA1 and BRCA2 mutations.
Because these are mutations to a single gene, this risk factor for breast cancer is easily detected by a DNA testing kit.
The serious risks associated with BRCA1 and BRCA2, combined with the ease of detecting them with a DNA testing kit, opened many peoples’ eyes to the possibilities offered by personalized genetic health planning. Soon, other diseases and health conditions demonstrated their amenability to detection by DNA testing.
Your risk of several other diseases can also be predicted from the results of a DNA test kit. Many DNA testing kits can now detect the presence of genes likely to cause celiac disease, Alzheimer’s disease, and liver disease, among others.
DNA test kits can even estimate whether you are likely to gain weight. Beyond this, there are even tests to predict your likelihood of gaining weight or being predisposed to obesity. Initial evidence for this came from genetic research published in 1998 in the prestigious journal Nature–using a technique to sequence the entire human genome in a large group of siblings living in France, scientists flagged dozens of sites in your DNA that are linked to obesity (4).
Some of the more reliable DNA mutations have found their way to DNA tests available to consumers, and as such, these tests can predict how susceptible you are to weight gain.
They can even identify whether consuming certain types of foods, like red meat, is likely to lead to weight gain for people with your specific genetic makeup.
A natural next step might be to ask what can be done about a genetic potential for weight gain. Here, a DNA testing kit can offer insights too.
Other genetic mutations have been associated with a greater propensity to respond to aerobic exercise or resistance (i.e. weight lifting) exercise, and certain genetic traits make you more likely to respond to dietary interventions too.
A scientific article published in 2016 by researchers in Poland highlighted a number of these genes, including the ADRB3 gene, which is associated with increased weight loss after introduction of an exercise program, and variants of the LEPR gene, which are associated with decreased body fat after weight training (5).
If you find you’re susceptible to a disease, what should you do? Genetics play a role in your risk for disease, as does the environment you live in and your lifestyle.
Moreover, these effects are not separate; genetics interacts with the environment and with your lifestyle to determine your risk for disease.
This is good news, because it means you can fight back against a genetic predisposition to disease. This was highlighted in research conducted at Stanford University and published in 2018 on a group of almost 500,000 subjects (6).
Even if you are genetically predisposed to a certain disease, you can still lower your risk for it with a healthy lifestyle. Genetic data, combined with physical activity and fitness measurements like daily steps taken and muscular strength, was used to study whether people with a genetic predisposition to heart disease were able to reduce their risk of heart disease through physical exercise.
Even among those who had a high genetic predisposition to heart disease, having good aerobic fitness reduced rates of heart disease by 50%.
The same should apply to other genetic predispositions to disease. If, for example, you’re more likely to gain weight, according to your DNA testing results, you should watch your diet more closely, and think about a supplement for weight loss if you start to gain weight.
Your DNA testing results can keep you more vigilant for risks to your health, and many tests even suggest supplements and dietary changes that you can make to improve your health.
DNA testing can also help identify whether you are the carrier of a genetic disease that you could pass on to your children. Some genetic diseases are recessive, meaning you need two copies of the defective gene (one from your father and one from your mother).
If you and your partner both have one copy of a defective gene, neither of you would have the disease, but you could pass it on to your children.
If one of your children inherited both copies of the defective gene, they would have the disease. A similar process is at play with diseases linked to the X chromosome.
Women have two X chromosomes, so they can have a defective gene on one, but not suffer from the disease. If they have a male child, however, he will only have one X chromosome.
If that X chromosome he inherits is the one with the defect, he has a 100% chance of getting the genetic disease. DNA testing kits don’t check for all heritable genetic diseases, but they are a good place to start.
If you do find that you are a carrier of a genetic disease, getting genetic counseling along with your partner is a very prudent decisions to make before you have children.
DNA testing kits aren’t for everyone. You should be prepared for the full knowledge of your potential health in the future, which is no small task.
Many DNA testing companies require users to sign a statement to verify that they understand the risks associated with the test.
These aren’t physical risks–a DNA test is safer than brushing your teeth. Rather, the risks are psychological. DNA testing kits use the latest science to uncover genetic mutations linked to disease, but these scientific discoveries are agnostic towards whether there’s anything to be done about them.
23andMe, for example, includes a test for four genetic mutations linked to Alzheimer’s disease. Alzheimer’s is a degenerative disease with no cure and very little in the way of treatments to slow it down.
While there are ways to reduce your risk of Alzheimer’s disease, like taking an omega-3 supplement, exercising, and staying “cognitively active” with intellectually challenging hobbies, it can still be pretty devastating to find out you have a gene that gives you a 50% chance of getting Alzheimer’s in old age.
DNA testing companies and genetic counselors emphasize the need to be prepared to know the results of tests for deadly diseases like cancer and Alzheimer’s disease.
In many cases, consulting with your doctor is a very good idea. Many women face similar difficulties with the BRCA1 and BRCA2 genes.
With an 80% chance of developing breast cancer, the results of these tests mean women who have these genes will need to be drastically more vigilant, seeing their doctor frequently and getting regular mammograms or advanced medical imaging.
Some women even elect to get pre-emptive mastectomies to prevent breast cancer after finding out that they have these breast cancer genes.
If you don’t think you’re ready to know the results of your DNA test kit, the best person to talk to is likely your family doctor. He or she can help you weigh the psychological risks of knowing your susceptibility to disease against your ability to fight back against the risks by making lifestyle changes.
Optimists might note that, even for currently incurable diseases like Alzheimer’s, there may well be a treatment or even a cure 10 or 20 years from now, and your odds of taking advantage of a treatment or a cure are higher if you detect disease early.
Your doctor can also refer you to further genetic counseling to identify what you can do about your risks for disease. Often, knowing what you are up against is half the battle.
Q: How do DNA testing kits work?
A: DNA testing kits are pretty simple: you aren’t buying anything high tech, and you aren’t actually conducting any of the testing yourself. A test kit just consists of a test tube, and sometimes a cotton swab.
Depending on the kit, you either have to use the cotton swab to scrape the side of your cheeks, or you have to spit a certain amount of saliva into the test tube.
In either case once you’ve used the test tube, you seal it up and send it off to the lab for testing. That’s the last you’ll see of the physical kit—once the lab receives your test kit, the lab extracts your DNA from the tube and sequences your DNA. Then you get a report, usually via email, that details your results.
Q: How long does it take to get DNA testing results?
A: The processing time varies from company to company–some of the quickest take only two weeks, while others, especially during busy times, can take well over a month.
It’s hard to predict the processing time, because it depends on the backlog that a company currently has, but a reputable DNA testing company can provide you with updates on the status of your report if you ask
Q: Why are some DNA test kit results only available for men?
A: Tests for certain genetic traits, like baldness, back hair to name a few examples, have been developed for specific genes located on the Y chromosome.
Because women don’t have a Y chromosome, they’ll never have any of these genetic traits. Some ancestry tests have a similar restriction for maternal lineage. Since they use mitochondrial DNA, which comes strictly form your mother, they can only examine your ancestry on your mother’s side.
Q: How accurate are DNA testing kit results?
A: While no DNA test is 100% accurate, as long as you follow the instructions properly when giving your DNA sample, the chance of an error in processing your information is very small.
However, genetics don’t determine everything. The health and wellness predictions made by a DNA testing kit are ultimately statistical in nature.
Take, for example, the BRCA1 and BRCA2 genes. While these increase a woman’s risk of breast cancer by a huge amount, not every woman with genetic mutations on these genes will get breast cancer.
Genes interact with the environment and with your lifestyle, so while a certain genetic trait may make you more likely to have a certain disease, or a certain health benefit, it’s not a guarantee.
Q: Is a DNA test kit worth it?
A: Whether a DNA test kit is worth it to you is largely dependent on how you think you might change your health habits based on the results. Some of the results of a DNA test kit, like whether you are likely to be sensitive to the taste of cilantro, are more or less just for fun.
Others, like your ancestral roots, are hard to put a price tag on. But the health information is easier to evaluate.
If you found out that you are genetically predisposed to gaining weight, or genetically predisposed to getting high cholesterol from dietary sources like eggs, would it change your lifestyle? Some people, even when faced with definitive information about their health, won’t change their behaviors.
For others, though, a DNA test kit could be a wakeup call—to eat healthier, exercise more, engage in intellectually stimulating activities to stave off cognitive decline, or even to live life to its fullest when faced with the realization that you might be predisposed to a serious disease in old age. If this second description is more in line with your personality, a DNA test kit is definitely worth it.
Q: Which DNA test is the most accurate?
A: When it comes to accuracy, most legitimate companies are using the same type of equipment to actually conduct the DNA test, so the accuracy of the equipment is less of a problem than the accuracy of the information you receive—that’s where the real differences between companies show up.
For the absolute best accuracy, you want to go with one of the major, well-established businesses like 23andMe. These companies have access to the greatest amount of raw genetic data, which gives them the ability to make more accurate predictions about both health and ancestry.
Q: Are DNA tests accurate?
A: In terms of the actual technology used in DNA test kits, the procedure is highly accurate. You’re not at all likely to be told you have a specific genetic trait that you don’t in fact have. However, accuracy can be spotty on more vague results from a test, like your geographic origin.
Customers of well-known ancestry companies like 23andMe or Ancestry.com are often surprised when their results get updated, sometimes months or years later, as the companies revise their genetic databases. How can the result of a DNA test change over time? It’s not that your DNA is changing.
Instead, our scientific understanding of the function of specific genetic traits improves over time. Especially as companies add more information to their DNA databases, our understanding of what genes are associated with what traits, health conditions, or geographic origin also changes.
Usually, changes are improvements or refinements—instead of your ancestry being pegged as “Eastern Europe,” this finding could get refined at a later date to “Lithuania and Estonia.”
Q: Do home DNA testing kits work?
A: While it depends on what you mean by “work”, in most interpretations, yes, home DNA kits work very well. The genius behind a home DNA test kit is that none of the actual testing needs to happen at home: because DNA from a cheek swab or a saliva sample is fairly stable at room temperature, you can ship the test tube to one centralized lab.
With thousands or millions of customers, it’s easy for a company to have the sophisticated equipment needed to sequence DNA. Likewise, the amount of information available to you as a customer of a DNA test kit is going to depend on the quality of data that a particular company has.
Some of the data you can get is freely available through published scientific research, but many of the top DNA test kit companies have their own proprietary databases as well.
Q: Where can you get a DNA test kit?
A: DNA test kits are available online, at drug stores, and even at big-box retailers. Since the kit itself is incredibly simple, the only physical goods you purchase are the test tube, the instruction kit, and the shipping box.
Of course, the high price tag pays for the expensive and time-consuming DNA sequencing process that takes place at the central testing facility, plus the cost of acquiring the information that the DNA testing company uses to tell you information about your genetic makeup.
Q: How much is a DNA test kit?
A: DNA kits run a wide gamut of prices, from low-end bargain deals around $30 up to market-leading tests like 23andMe, which will run you around $200.
The higher end products are from companies that have access to a greater quantity of high-quality data on the link between DNA and ancestry, or DNA and health outcomes.
Lower-end products should be avoided; these low cost DNA tests seem like a good deal, but many fraudulent DNA testing companies have been uncovered that send an essentially random DNA report to customers, without actually sequencing the genome or running any tests.
Q: Is a DNA test kit safe?
A: DNA testing poses no risks to your health. The only potential for risk is related to your emotional and mental reaction to finding out the results of your DNA test.
For many people, finding out they have genes that substantially increase the risk of serious diseases like breast cancer and Alzheimer’s disease can cause a great deal of anxiety and stress.
However, it is fairly easy to tell whether you are likely to experience this level of stress and anxiety—all you need to do is ask yourself how you would feel if you found out you did in fact have one of these higher risk genetic traits.
For most people, knowing will be better than being ignorant. Diseases that are incurable now may not be in twenty or fifty years, and research has shown that even people who are genetically predisposed to conditions like heart disease can reduce their risk through the same lifestyle factors that work for everyone: a healthy diet and exercise.
One other potential risk with DNA testing kits is the issue of privacy. Again, here is a place where the top companies have a distinctive advantage over smaller or lower-end DNA test kits.
A company like 23andMe or AncestryDNA takes privacy extremely seriously: they won’t share your identifiable genetic data with anyone else, and they have dedicated huge amounts of effort to guard against hacking and cyber-intrusion. The same may not be the case for smaller companies that offer cheaper DNA test kits.
DNA testing kits are already extremely valuable for planning out your health and fitness routines, and as technology advances, more genetic variants associated with health and disease will undoubtedly be identified.
A DNA testing kit can identify whether you are at risk for specific diseases, which can give you some powerful motivation to focus on lifestyle choices to improve your overall health.
You can also find out how your body is likely to respond to diet and exercise–are you more likely to respond to aerobic training like running, elliptical, and swimming, or does your body thrive on lifting weights?
You could spends months at the gym trying to figure this out by trial and error, or you could take one DNA test and find out.
Because your genetics are such a powerful force in determining your health, it’s important to know your strengths and your weaknesses. This is where a DNA testing kit can really make a difference.
For BodyNutrition‘s #1 DNA test kit recommendation, click here.