DNA testing kits have surged in popularity in recent years, with many of us now turning to these tests to answer questions about our genetic background, ancestry or health.
Home DNA testing kits are now widely available, and there are a huge number of DNA testing companies competing for our attention in this competitive market.
It can be difficult to know where to start when choosing the best DNA testing company for you, but that’s where we come in. In this article, we will explore the DNA testing services offered by two companies, namely ‘23andMe’ and ‘My Heritage’.
We will look at exactly what it is that these companies offer users, how the testing works, and what users can expect from both to help you make an informed decision.
But first, we’ll discuss what a DNA test can tell you and offer some useful advice on how to manage your expectations as a consumer.
Answering Questions: What a DNA Test Can Tell You
DNA testing, also known as genetic testing, is essentially a test that is used to identify changes in the DNA sequence or chromosome structure.
The test will usually be carried out using just a small sample of saliva, tissue, or blood, and offers a quick and easy to way to determine biological relatives, predict an individual’s ancestry, or uncover inherited health conditions.
Many of us now enjoy the convenience of a home DNA testing kit to offer insights into our genetic make-up and learn about how it can shape our personal health and wellbeing.
Users should be aware of the limits of DNA testing, however, and it’s important to understand that accuracy can vary according to the different testing methods that are used.
Founded in 2006, DNA testing company 23andMe offers DNA tests that can reveal useful information about your genetics and ancestry with the shared goal of helping people to access, understand, and benefit from the human genome.
Based in California, the company has around 500 employees and ships its products to more than 50 countries worldwide.
According to company statistics, 23andMe has more than 12,000,000 customers, making them a hugely popular choice for meaningful DNA testing. The company has a science-focused approach in an effort to use data to improve our understanding of the nature of wellness and disease.
The 23andMe DNA testing process is easy and accessible. Users can simply choose from the selection of tests available, follow the kit instructions to provide a saliva sample, and mail it back to the lab in the prepaid package.
Results take approximately 3-5 weeks, and customers will receive an email as soon as the report is ready to view on their online account.
What services are offered by 23andMe?
23andMe offers two services for users; the Ancestry and Traits service, and the Health and Ancestry Service, which is the more expensive of the two. Let’s consider what each service can offer users;
- Ancestry and Traits service:
This service primarily offers users the opportunity to get to know their ancestral history. There are 50 detailed reports available which can each offer fascinating insights about your ancestry. The results can tell you about your ancestry composition, for example, so you can see where exactly your DNA is from out of more than 2000 regions worldwide.
Users can learn about the origins of their maternal or paternal ancestors and where they could have lived thousands of years ago. If you’re interested, customers can also opt-in to the 23andMe relative finder scheme, which is designed to find and connect users with relatives in the 23andMe database who share the same DNA.
This service also allows users to start a virtual family tree automatically based on the data collected from their DNA, which can be really helpful if you’re just getting started with your research.
- Health and Ancestry service:
The second 23andMe service offered is the health and ancestry service, which can provide users with useful information relating to health and wellbeing. This test can help to identify the potential for any genetically predisposed diseases such as late-onset Alzheimer’s disease and type 2 diabetes.
This test also produces carrier status reports for other health conditions such as cystic fibrosis, sickle cell anemia, and hereditary hearing loss. Users can also learn about any intolerances or factors that may contribute to weight or sleep.
MyHeritage is a leading global discovery platform that enables customers to learn about their family history and gain other important insights relating to health. The company was founded in 2003 and has grown into a global company with 104 million users based all across the globe.
Smart Matching technology helps the team at MyHeritage find matching profiles in family trees, which enables users to discover new ancestors and relatives. The MyHeritage search engine is used to explore billions of historical records to uncover family mysteries and establish connections.
The system is also able to translate names that may be found in historical records and family trees from one language to another, which allows for matches to be made between names in different languages.
MyHeritage is a great option to consider if you’re interested in developing a family tree that you can share with family and friends. It offers an ideal way to build a visual idea of your ancestral past and clearly document any new discoveries or branches on your family tree.
You can research on the go with the MyHeritage cell phone app, which is compatible with both iOS and Android.
What services are offered by MyHeritage?
MyHeritage offers one primary DNA home testing kit, which requires a simple cheek swab to obtain results. The sample should then be mailed back to the MyHeritage DNA lab for analysis, and results will be viewable online within 3-4 weeks.
In the high-tech lab, the sample will be converted into a digital form and compared with the DNA of others to find close and distant relatives. The MyHeritage computerized algorithms will calculate your ‘Ethnicity Estimate’ which effectively determines which segments of your DNA originate from different regions in the world.
Privacy is prioritized at MyHeritage, and users can rest assured in the knowledge that any personal details are secured and protected by multiple layers of encryption.
In addition to this, only you will have access to the raw DNA data, and you also have the option to request that this data is deleted at any time.
How do the two companies compare?
The main difference between 23andMe and MyHeritage is that MyHeritage has a primary focus on helping users build a picture of and around their ancestral family tree, while as 23andMe have a few other applications, including a focus on health reports.
The MyHeritage DNA test can help users research their family tree and build a clearer idea of their cultural past, including the geographical areas that their ancestors may have lived and relatives they may not have previously known about.
MyHeritage recently introduced a health report in addition to the detailed ancestry report to compete with other DNA testing companies, however this is not their primary focus as a business.
In contrast, 23andMe offers both an Ancestry test and an Ancestry + Health test. The 23andMe health test helps customers to appreciate how DNA can influence your health and affect your chances of developing certain health conditions.
This test can reveal the genetic likelihood for various diseases and disorders such as age-related macular degeneration, Celiac disease, Parkinson’s disease, and Alzheimer’s disease. If you’re looking for a full and detailed health report, then, 23andMe may the best choice for your needs.
Interestingly, 23andMe and MyHeritage also adopt slightly different methods in the collection of the DNA sample itself. 23andMe request a saliva sample to run the tests, and supply users with a small tube in which they must spit into.
Alternatively, MyHeritage requests a cheek swab, whereby the user can simply swab the inside of a cheek with a cotton swab. There is no evidence to suggest one method is better than the other from a scientific perspective, however, users may find that a cheek swab is a little easier.
How to decide which DNA testing company will work best for you?
Deciding which company will work best for you largely depends on your own personal goals and what you hope to find out from the DNA test.
If you want to uncover more information about your family tree and find out where your ancestors could have lived, for example, MyHeritage would be an ideal choice for you.
The MyHeritage test can reveal your ethnic background and help to match you with relatives. Users can take advantage of the extensive database to search the records and find out more about their ancestors.
Although 23andMe also offer this service, MyHeritage is arguably one of the best companies for ancestry DNA tests and can help you make exciting discoveries and matches to build up a detailed family tree.
If you are looking to do a DNA test to address any health concerns, the 23andMe service should help.
This 23andMe Health + Ancestry service can shed light on some of the health concerns that may have been troubling you and reveal more about your chances of developing certain genetically inherited health conditions.
This sort of knowledge can help you plan ahead and understand how your genetic make-up can influence your overall health.