Despite the fact that tons of competitors have sprung up in recent years, 23AndMe still makes the best DNA test on the market. It’s the quickest, it’s very comprehensive, and the way the company presents your genetic data is simple and easy to digest. However, depending on what kind of information you’re looking for, there are other, more specialized DNA tests that might be better suited for you. Whether it’s ancestry, fitness, disease risk, or something else entirely, there’s likely a DNA kit that’ll uncover that data.
With the rising popularity of these tests, we decided to take a closer look and see which ones are worth the investment. To do this, we secured a mail-in kit from as many DNA testing services as we could find, then shipped them a spit tube full of our precious genetic code for analysis. After looking through all the data and personally trying all of these services, there were a few that stood out from the pack. Here are our favorites:
Why should you buy this: 23andMe pioneered the at-home DNA test, and it has only improved with time.
Who it’s for: Those looking for a comprehensive look at their DNA
How much will it cost: $199
Why we picked 23andMe:
We are most impressed with 23andMe’s speed. While prefacing this with the fact that we received and sent out our test during a period where the company wasn’t running any kind of special (which delays processing overall), it only took 15 days for us to receive our results in the mail, nearly a week faster than anyone else we tested.
23andMe also gets high marks for how it lays its results out. They’re easy to follow, and while perhaps less specific than runner up AncestryDNA, they still feel precise. We understand there is some disagreement on the accuracy and validity of using DNA to predict geographic ancestry, but for us, our DNA ancestry matched what we knew (with a few surprises).
The health risks test, while an additional $100, seems to be worth it if you’re concerned about your risks for genetic diseases. If you’re having a child and worried about passing along genetic diseases, you’ll find the carrier section pretty useful.
Of course, there’s some less useful but fun-to-know items like genetic and wellness traits, but we’re not as sure of their overall value so we won’t spend too much time on that here. Overall, the test feels like a good value for the money you pay – and even better when the company runs a special that brings the price down.
For its comprehensiveness and value, the 23andMe Ancestry and Health kit is our top pick.
The best DNA test for Ancestry
Why should you buy this: AncestryDNA only tests for what its named for, but the results are very detailed.
Who it’s for: Users of Ancestry.com’s family tree database will find this extremely helpful.
How much it will cost: $99
Why we picked AncestryDNA:
It’s not surprising Ancestry.com got into the at-home DNA test market, considering the company’s entire business has been built around helping millions research their family ancestry. It’s probably also for this reason the company’s test only tests for that,and does it extremely well.
It took 20 days from the date we dropped it in the mail to have our results ready, and the results were in line with what we expected. Whereas 23andMe opted for “broader” regions (i.e. French and German, Eastern European), in some cases AncestryDNA offered more specific regions, including picking up on this writer’s heavy German ancestry.
Where AncestryDNA especially shines is in its ability to link you with common genetic ancestors. As more Ancestry customers take these tests, you may be able to find ancestors that you didn’t know you had, or fill in gaps in your tree – especially in cases where your ancestral homelands didn’t keep good records (23andMe does this too, but we feel AncestryDNA does it better).
You’ll also be able to trace migration in a more detailed way than 23andMe provides, thanks to Ancestry.com’s massive genealogical database.
If health is not a concern to you, AncestryDNA’s service might be a better option, and definitely so if you’re already using the service for family tree research. There is a bit of a longer wait, but it’s more than worth it for the detail.
The best DNA test for fitness
Why should you buy this: If you’re looking to get healthy and exercise right, DNAFit is a smart investment.
Who it’s for: Health and fitness enthusiasts.
How much it will cost: $120 ($80 for Helix users)
Why we picked DNAFit Diet Fitness Pro:
If you’ve been going the gym and blamed some of your struggles (or bragged about your successes) on your “bad genes,” chances are in some way your genetics have something to do with it. DNAFit takes your DNA results and looks for hints on how your body might respond to exercise, as well as what foods and diets may help you maximize your results.
What really solidified our choice to put this on our list was a recent price drop. It was previously a $400 test, so while the information it provides is certainly useful, it was also way overpriced. At $120, it seems like a much better deal.
The fitness side lets you know whether your genetic makeup responds better to strength or endurance training (or a mix of both), and then suggests a ten week workout plan based on those findings. On the nutrition side, it will suggest what “macros” you should follow to maximize those gains.
While the fitness side of DNAFit is useful on its own, for only $20 more you’re getting the nutrition recommendations too, so we’d recommend doing both. After all, fitness experts say most of getting fit is eating right.
The best DNA test for weight loss
Why should you buy this: If you’re already using the Lose It! App, this is a no-brainer
Who it’s for: Those looking to shed a few pounds.
How much it will cost: $90 ($70 for Helix users)
Why we picked embodyDNA:
I have used the Lose It! App for a long time now and can say with authority that it’s one of the best food tracking apps out there. The company partnered with a company named Helix recently to turbocharge its app with DNA smarts in something it calls embodyDNA.
With embodyDNA, you’ll get specific food and nutrition information based on the results of your DNA analysis, in a way similar to DNAFit’s offering, although it seems a bit more detailed. If good nutrition is a bigger concern for you rather than strength training, then embodyDNA is a better choice.
We do wish however that the price was a bit lower. From time to time, the service is discounted, so we recommend you buy it during a dip. We’ve seen the test go as low as $45, and we think it’s a great deal at that price if you can get it. Either way, it will help you shed those extra pounds with personalized recommendations, no Weight Watchers or Jenny Craig membership needed.
The best novelty DNA test
Why should you buy this: It’s the most unique DNA test that we’ve seen yet.
Who it’s for: Wine lovers, of course.
How much it will cost: $60 ($20 for Helix users)
Why we picked Vinome:
As admitted winos ourselves, we jumped at the chance to try out a DNA test that supposedly can help you select wines better suited for your palate. At $60 the price is a bit steep, however if you’ve already used Helix for DNA analysis before, it’s only $20, which most of us have probably spent on a bottle of wine we didn’t end up liking anyway!
When you begin you’ll be asked some questions on what flavors you prefer (and even what cheeses you like – who doesn’t like their wine with a little cheese!). From there, those preferences are combined with results of your analysis to help you choose the best wines.
We were pleasantly surprised to see what we knew of our preferences be reflected in the results (an affinity for sweeter and citrusy wines, white over red), and actually got recommendations for two types of wines we haven’t tried yet, pinot gris and viognier – which we’ll have to run to the store to pick up and try out soon.
Vinome operates a quarterly wine club, which offers 3 bottles for $150, 6 for $300, and 12 for $600. While $50 a bottle of wine is steep, Vinome notes that this is a maximum price and you may pay less. They also have a store option, but unfortunately that is down at the moment, so the wine club option is the only one available.
While occasional wine drinkers may not find Vinome that useful, we’d more than recommend this to seasoned drinkers. It just might make those trips to the wine store a little less stressful.
How We Test
Testing these kits out takes a lot of spitting into test tubes, but we feel with the ever-increasing number of DNA tests out there, it’s time that someone took a hard look at these offerings to help you decide if they’re a wise investment. DNA analysis is an evolving science though, and there’s a lot we don’t know about the human genome just yet.
This makes testing a bit of a challenge, however we use a combination of comparison tests matched with our expectations of the end results to select which tests are the best.
Does the test make sense? Is it too overly broad or do the results seem skewed in any way? Is the test easy to perform? Do the results take a long time to process? All these kinds of questions are ones we’re looking to answer.
Of course, usefulness is also a key factor. There’s a plethora of information in your genome, not all of which is particularly useful. Does the DNA test give you any actionable information to better yourself on, or is a particular unique test? It just might make it on this list.
Other Ancestry Tests
There are quite a few ancestry tests out there other than the two we mentioned above. The only one we were able to test that isn’t included here was a British company called Living DNA. While we were big fans of how Living DNA set up its results page – splitting up your maternal and paternal parentage lines – it didn’t work well for us.
It seemed to overestimate our British heritage by a considerable margin, downplaying our primarily Germanic heritage. This may be more of a function of the samples the company has to work with – likely heavily British – so we’d recommend this test only if you have primarily British origins. One cool thing about LivingDNA is that it attempts to also place your British heritage to specific regions of the country, which might be helpful for research.
As we test more of these kits out, we’ll expand this post to detail our experiences.
Helix is a Great Deal
We’d really recommend trying a Helix-backed DNA test. Once you’ve had your DNA analyzed, you can purchase any other Helix-backed test and it will not only be cheaper, but the results will arrive fast. In one case, we had our results in less than 24 hours: the second one we tried was three days, but that’s still pretty speedy. Think of Helix as almost like an ‘App Store for DNA.’
Helix also has some cool novelties that are created from your genome: anything from socks to scarves to totes and t-shirts. Do note that some tests may require you to send in a blood sample as well: these are rare and limited to the more comprehensive health tests that Helix carry (mainly from everlyWell).
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