In a Nutshell
- Offers both ancestry and health results
- Access to DNA Relatives tool
- Family tree results are not as comprehensive as some competitors
- More expensive than some other tests on the market
- Looking for long-lost relatives
- Finding out more about your ancestry and family tree
- A comprehensive picture of your health profile
Why Go With 23andMe
The entire 23andMe experience is smooth and each touchpoint seems carefully considered. There are various options throughout the process, allowing you to feel in control. For example, you can choose to take just the “Ancestry Service” (giving you a breakdown of your global ancestry, among other things) or to make use of the “Health + Ancestry Service” which gives you reports on your ancestry, traits, and health. You can choose to keep your information completely private, or you can opt in to the DNA Relatives tool, which enables you to connect with other users and to find any distant or close relatives on the platform. There are even options for the degree of assurance (dubbed “confidence level”) you want to see in results. The user interface is simple and easy-to-use.
It’s important to properly differentiate between the 2 services offered by 23andMe. The combined Ancestry and Health tests offer reports and information that are not available in most of the other commercially available tests; these include everything from genetic diseases you might be susceptible to—such as Alzheimer's and Parkinson’s disease—to the chances of having curly hair. The “Ancestry only” test is similar to other ancestry tests on the market, however it lacks the power of ancestry tests that also provide information on family trees, as it does not connect you to more recent relatives; focusing instead on the the ancient past and your origins.
What’s on Offer
- Ancestry reports including Ancestry Composition
- Neanderthal ancestry
- DNA Relative Finder (opt in)
- Ancestry timeline
- Copy of raw, uninterpreted genetic data file
- Health reports (if this package is chosen) including: genetic health risk, carrier status, wellness and traits reports
More Reasons to Choose 23andMe
There are other reasons to choose 23andMe. The amount that you can learn about yourself and your ancestry is astounding. Anything from lactose intolerance to proclivity to certain diseases – and even physical characteristics. For example (assuming you choose the higher-end Ancestry + Health test), one of your results will be a report on the likelihood of you being lactose intolerant, including an explanation of why some people are more likely to experience lactose intolerance. The 23andMe reports will also indicate what type of muscle composition you’re likely to have (such as “Sprinter/Power muscle type”) and even what eye color you are likely to possess.
23andMe offers some incredible innovations:
- Inheritance tracing: Trace how certain populations were passed down through different generations
- Ancestry percentages to the 0.1%: 23andMe provides estimates of your ancestry percentages down to the 0.1%, as well as the option to explore results with different confidence levels
- Chromosome breakdown of ancestry: See which pieces of your DNA come from 31 populations worldwide
- Compare DNA Relatives' segments: In the DNA Relatives tool, you can see overlapping chromosome segments between you and your matches and compare them with up to 5 other matches at a time to help you triangulate new relatives for your family tree
Sending your sample in is super easy; there are instructions sent with the kit that are also available online. Because 23andMe is so well known, there are tons of videos and blogs about the test itself, what to expect, and how to get the most out of your results.
If you’re in the US, the kit comes shrink-wrapped with the prepaid shipping label under the box, so that all you have to do once you’ve completed your sample, is to to send the box back, free of charge. Processing is quick, around 6-8 weeks, after which you can access a wealth of information on the 23andMe platform.
Ease of use
23andMe has gone out of its way to make it as easy as possible to receive the kit, complete the test, and return it.
- First, you register on the 23andMe website
- Before taking the test itself, ensure that you don’t brush your teeth, eat, smoke, chew gum, or use mouthwash 30 minutes before
- Once completed, mail the test back and wait for your results
The application process is simple too, consisting of an online form that’s quick and simple to fill out, with no additional documentation.
Speed of Kit Delivery and Results
The kit is usually delivered within a week of ordering and results can take around 6-8 weeks. Don’t worry too much about rushing to get your test returned; the kit includes a buffer solution that is added to your saliva immediately after providing your sample, stabilizing the DNA and preventing bacterial contamination. Buffered samples are stable at a wide range of temperatures (-4ºF to 122ºF or -20ºC to 50ºC) for up to 6 months. Similarly, unused kits also remain stable, even if they’re exposed to temperatures in this range during transit or storage.
You can track the status of your sample as follows:
- Send sample to lab
- Sample received at lab (you get an email)
- DNA analysis – includes quality review
- Computing (this is especially relevant if you opted in to see any possible relatives on 23andMe)
- Results ready: data is loaded into your account, and you receive an email once your results are available
The results include not only your personal characteristics and origins, but also simple yet comprehensive explanations of the various reports. When providing information on the what muscle composition you are likely to have, for example, there will be a section that explains what factors contribute to a certain composition type.
We liked the fact that privacy was really important at 23andMe. Results can only be accessed security on the 23andMe site—rather than being sent in the mail, or even via email. There are parts of the results set that you can choose to share if you feel comfortable with this.
The results include your ethnic mix, indicating what percentage of your genes match those of different populations, shedding more light on your origins. For example you might see “90% European”, with British, Irish, French and German genes being major contributors, along with other trace regions that contribute the minority of your likely ancestors, such as as sub-Saharan Africa or even Native American.
There is also a report on the percentage DNA you share with Neanderthals. While interesting, this does not necessarily tell you much more about yourself, or others with varying degrees of Neanderthal DNA.
DNA Collection Kit
The 23andMe kit uses saliva testing.
The kit comes with:
- Instruction sheet
- Plastic vial hazard bag
- Small tube cap
- Sample collection tube
DNA Test Type
- Autosomal (family DNA)
If you choose the Health + Ancestry option, the 23andMe Genetic Health Risk Reports tell you if you have genetic variants associated with an increased risk of developing certain health conditions. It does not report on your entire genetic profile. The variants include:
- Alpha-1 Antitrypsin Deficiency- 2 variants in the SERPINA1 gene; Hereditary Thrombophilia- 2 variants in the F5 and F2 genes
- Late-Onset Alzheimer's Disease- 1 variant in the APOE gene; variant found and studied in many ethnicities
- Parkinson's Disease- 2 variants in the LRRK2 and GBA genes
- Ethnic makeup estimate, simple (chart with broad categories)
- Deep ancestry (migration paths from Africa to modern era)
- Neanderthal DNA
- DNA relative matching
- Health information (traits, disease markers, etc.)
- Downloadable DNA data that can be used on other web sites such as gedmatch.com
There are quite a few customer support options available. There is an email form through the website itself, and inquiries are answered promptly. 23andMe is also active on social media, responding almost immediately to questions and concerns. They are also constantly putting out tips, tricks, answers, and other interesting content through their blog and YouTube channel.
*Last updated: April, 2018
Pricing is $99 for the Ancestry Service and $199 for the Health + Ancestry Service, through a secure payment system.
Why is 23andMe More Expensive?
The question of why 23andMe is more expensive is a legitimate question, but when you think about what you get as part of your testing kit, it doesn't really seem so expensive. First off, the Ancestry service kit itself is not much more expensive than other kits, and indeed it's often discounted to the same price as other major brands.
A major factor to also consider is that 23andMe is the only mainstream home DNA kit thus far that is approved by the FDA and can test for breast cancer. If you take into consideration the medical costs of breast cancer screening through a doctor and hospital, 23andMe is a bargain. Understand what you get with your 23andMe kit and you'll understand why the pricing makes sense.
Review in Short
In short, 23andMe is known as a leader in the DNA testing space, and for good reason. The test offers value for money, a smooth and reliable experience, and plenty of help along the way.
23andMe was founded in 2006 by Linda Avey, Paul Cusenza and Anne Wojcicki, ex-wife of Google founder Sergey Brin, to “help people access, understand and benefit from the human genome.” The company has more than 2 million genotyped customers around the world, and in 2015 was granted authorization by the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) to market the first direct-to-consumer genetic test. It has raised over $200 million, with investors such as Google buying equity in the company.
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