23andMe DNA Testing Kit Review

23andMe, named for the 23 chromosome pairs in human DNA, is a research-focused company that enables its users to get insight into their ancestry, genealogy, and inherited traits.

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    Established in 2006 at Mountain View California, it has grown to be one of the most popular DNA services currently on the market, with an estimated 10 million users. It has been at the forefront of developments in DNA testing. It was the first company to utilize autosomal DNA testing, which is now the method of most of the other major DNA testing companies.

    With scientific practices being developed all the time, 23andMe is arguably the most thorough and accurate service available to date. 

    23 and me Packages Start From

    PackagePricing
    Ancestry + Traits Service
    $79
    Health + Ancestry Service
    $129
    VIP Health + Ancestry Service
    $429

    Pros and Cons

    Pros

    • Easy to collect your sample and free to send it back.
    • Finds your genetic relatives among other testers
    • 1500 different regions included for ethnicity reports
    • Additionally, tests a portion of your mtDNA and yDNA.
    • A wide variety of reports offered.
    • Includes a free traits report as part of the package.

    Cons

    • More expensive than some options.
    • Smaller database than some of its competitors.

    Collecting your DNA Sample

    Ordering your kit couldn’t be simpler. You select which reports you would like to have access to complete your purchase.

    The DNA collection kit is shipped to you at no extra cost, within one business day of the purchase date.

    Each kit includes:

    • Easy to follow picture instructions showing each of the steps
    • A saliva collection tube
    • A funnel lid
    • A tube cap
    • A specimen bag

    The first thing that you need to do, before providing the sample, is to register the kit online.

    This involves inputting the information included on the collection tube onto the website under your account details.

    This is important for ensuring that the lab knows who the sample belongs to.

    The saliva collection, which is how you provide your DNA sample, is a straightforward process. You need to spit into the funnel, again and again, to fill the tube up to the indicated line.

    Note that bubbles don’t count. You need to have liquid reach the line.

    Once you have done this, you then close the funnel lid to release the protector fluid, switch out this lid for the cap, and then give the tube a good shake for five seconds. 

    You then seal the tube inside the specimen bag, put it back in the postage-paid box, and ship it back to the lab.

    How Fast Do Results Come Back?

    The results usually take around three to five weeks to come back, and you will be able to track the progress of your sample while you wait.

    If you have opted for the VIP package, your results will be fast-tracked.

    This is a fairly standard turnaround time for this type of test.

    Some companies may offer quicker service, but they will usually be including fewer tests in the results.

    What do the Results Include?

    What is included in your results varies depending on the reports that you have selected.

    23andMe currently offers three different packages for its customers to choose from.

    The cheapest and most popular option is priced at $99; this option is the Ancestry + Traits service.

    This includes reports on ancestry, with details such as ancestry composition and maternal/paternal haplogroup, and 30+ reports on traits like food preferences and hair texture. 

    If you opt-in to the DNA Relatives feature, your DNA will be compared to that of all the other testers who have opted in already or will do so in the future.  

    You will see a list of relatives ranked by how much DNA you share. Your closest relatives will be at the top of the list and you can search or filter your matches by various parameters.

    This feature is of enormous importance to genealogists, adoptees, and anyone else searching for unknown relatives.

    A step up from this is the Health + Ancestry option at $199.

    The reasons for the hefty price jump are clear to see because as well as the above reports, this package further includes 10+ reports on health disposition, 5+ reports on wellness, 40+ reports on carrier status. 

    This covers everything from how at-risk you are of developing certain health conditions such as type 2 diabetes or Parkinson’s disease, to whether you are likely to be a carrier of heritable illnesses like cystic fibrosis or sickle cell anemia.

    It even mentions how certain aspects of your environment, such as alcohol or caffeine, might be impacting your present health.

    The final one is the VIP service for $499. This provides test kits for two people and covers all of the reports from both services above.

    It also includes various extras such as overnight shipping,  priority lab processing, premium customer support, and a personalized walkthrough of your results.

    It’s also good to note that if you do opt for the basic service, you can bump it up to the second option, even after receiving your results.

    Doing this will cost an additional $125. On doing this, you will immediately be able to access the extra reports.

    Overall the reports are clearly set out and nicely illustrated.

    The Ancestry Composition Report makes use of a map to indicate the regions of the world that your ancestors were from. It backs that up with statistical data showing the percentages of your DNA linked to those parts of the world. The level of detail you see can vary depending on how well your DNA matches their reference populations.

    For example, you might see Italian or Greek and Balkan. Or you might only see a broader region called Southern European.

    In addition to this, you are provided with a nicely-organized timeline that shows how far back in time, you are linked to a particular  population. For instance, Native American ancestors might date from between 1690-1780 while your German ancestors might be much more recent.

    At the end of the report, they include your Chromosome Painting.

    A color key is used to highlight the specific areas of your DNA that are associated with each part of your heritage. The company provides helpful links throughout the report to help you with interpreting the different information in front of you.

    The Traits Reports gives you some, mostly fun facts about yourself, such as your ice cream preference or what time you usually wake up in the morning. It then draws a comparison with the rest of the population (from its database), so you can see how common that particular trait is.

    It also offers some interesting and educational facts about the feature and what scientists know about how it links to DNA.

    And with the second package…

    The Health Reports are also clearly set out for a better understanding of the information.

    They provide information about your risk level for multiple conditions and some necessary other details.

    As well as this, key warnings remind you that genetics doesn’t always give the full picture when it comes to illness and disease.

    The Wellness Reports are helpful in passing along some tips based on any issues or weaknesses that may have been detected.

    So, for instance, it has some useful suggestions for your diet and exercise routines to help you in maintaining optimum health.

    Finally, the Carrier Status Reports essentially have the same format at the Health Reports.

    They indicate whether you do and do not have the associated variants for many different kinds of heritable conditions.

    How does 23andMe Protect Your Privacy?

    23andMe protects your privacy in a variety of ways.

    Firstly, through meaningful choice, which puts you in control of your information.

    You will need to provide your explicit consent before any of your information will be shared with third parties or used for research purposes. 

    Secondly, your account with them is password-protected, and only you will have access to it unless you choose to share it with anyone.

    Alongside this, all of the additional services which may link you to other users are opt-in. You decide if you want to be a part of them.

    You also have the right to delete your DNA from 23andme database 

    Matching with Relatives

    Your account’s additional Relatives feature connects you with people who share similar DNA. It also indicates the closeness of your genetic match to show the extent of your relationship with one another.

    You can even get in touch with people that you are connected to.

    Building on this, the Family Tree feature automatically creates an illustrated portrait of your extended DNA relatives.

    However, when it comes to discovering connections, AncestryDNA has the advantage of having a more extensive database – so you have a higher chance of making more connections with them.

    MyHeritage DNA, on the other hand, has more registered customers outside of the USA, for Americans wanting to make connections in Europe and the rest of the world.

    23andMe’s Prices and Details

    Pricewise, 23andMe sits right next to its strongest competitor AncestryDNA, firmly in the middle of the market.

    Its health DNA test package is slightly more expensive than some – although it does offer significantly more information than all the others.

    You pay extra for shipping but that price includes prepaid return shipping from within the U.S.

    Ancestry + Traits Service

    This is the entry-level package, and it usually priced at $99, but you can sometimes find it during a sale for $79.

    This DNA test includes the following:

    • Over 1500 geographical locations included
    • More than 30 trait reports
    • Find your relatives with the DNA Relative Finder
    • Build your family tree with the automatic builder
    • Includes ancestry detail report

    This pack gives you one of the most in-depth views of your genetics and is perfect if you want to understand your ancestry composition.

    You can find relatives you didn’t know existed and trace your roots back to 1000 years. It’s ideal for those looking for a variety of information about their history.

    Health + Ancestry Service

    This test provides you with everything in the Ancestry + Traits Service with extra details about your health for $199. Again you can grab a bargain as it’s often on promotion for less.

    Let’s take a look at the extras you get with this analysis.

    • More than ten health predisposition reports, including Diabetes and Celiac disease
    • Over five wellness reports, which inform you about your muscle composition, genetic weight, and alcohol flush reaction
    • 40 plus carrier status reports identifying potential genetic diseases

    The test is perfect for people who have a history of disease or health issues and can help you understand any problems you may be suffering from.

    It also gives you family history and movements, too.

    The carrier status reports are especially important for couples that are thinking of having children.

    VIP Health + Ancestry Service

    This premium service gives you two health packs and the Ancestry + Traits Service for $499.

    The benefit of this DNA test is it covers almost everything you need, and it can sometimes be found on sale at $429.

    • All the benefits discussed above
    • Overnight shipping and premium customer support
    • One to one results explanation and review to keep you in the know
    • Priority processing so you’re guaranteed to be at the front of the queue.

    This pack is for DNA and family tree enthusiasts that want to know everything about their history, health, traits, and more.

    It’s also the one to choose if you don’t want to wait for your results for a more significant amount of time. It’s one of the most comprehensive packages on the market.

    Summary

    23andMe offers several distinct advantages over its leading competitors.

    Although it is currently the second most popular DNA testing service after AncestryDNA, it provides its customers with more extensive information on their genetic heritage, ancient ancestors, and traits.

    With its 1500 regions, it can also give more specific details about the geographic roots of your ancestors.

    The health package is also particularly highly rated among the company’s customers, and the option to support genetic research is well received.

    Overall, while certainly not the budget option, 23andMe simply seems to offer its customers more bang for their buck than other DNA testing services currently on the market.