Never before have we understood as much about ourselves with such a high degree of confidence. DNA tests let us peer into what makes us who we are, but such important information is also sensitive information.
For a long time, 23andMe was the only reputable (or affordable) option for at-home DNA testing; 23andMe is still the only DNA test approved by the FDA. Now, dozens of DNA testing options let you look at everything from how much of your DNA comes from Neanderthals to the exact codon deletion that changed your brain’s oxytocin receptors.
But with so many options, it can feel overwhelming trying to figure out the right test for you. We won’t discuss any ancestry DNA tests in this guide. Instead, we’ll help you parse through the DNA tests that help you learn more about your health.
We’ve picked our top 5 among dozens of options. The guide below will help you to identify what a good DNA test looks like and, even better, learn about our favorites to help you find the right DNA test for your needs.
If you’re in a hurry, here’s a quick summary of our findings.
- Best overall: Toolbox Genomics
- Best for nutrition and fitness: InsideTracker
- Best for carrier screening: Nebula Genomics
- Best epigenetic test: Toolbox Genomics
- Best full genome test: Nebula Genomics
- Best budget pick: Toolbox Genomics
- Most comprehensive: Nebula Genomics
- Fastest turnaround time: InsideTracker
Toolbox Genomics’ combination test helps you learn a lot about your health and also take actions aimed at improving it.
Gaining insights about both your genetics and epigenetics gives you a deeper understanding and positions you to take action. For best results, we recommend investing in the company’s Epigenetics Subscription to retest in a year.
With InsideTracker, combine your DNA test results with broader health testing to gain deep, actionable insight.
InsideTracker uses a proprietary algorithmic engine to integrate your biological data and examine it alongside tons of data from scientific studies. This is a powerful way to learn about your health, particularly for those seeking insight into optimal nutrition and fitness.
Current Deals: Take 25% off with coupon code INNERBODY25
- Top considerations and evaluation criteria
- How our top recommendations compare
- What kinds of DNA tests are there?
- What information can a DNA test tell me?
- Are DNA tests accurate?
- How can a DNA test help my health?
- What do DNA testing companies do with my information?
- Toolbox Genomics
- Nebula Genomics
- Why you should trust us
Winner: Toolbox Genomics
While the cost of a genetic test has shrunk from hundreds of thousands (or millions for a full genome sequence) to hundreds of dollars in the last two decades, they still aren’t inexpensive. The decision to take a genetic test isn’t one that most people make lightly, and we at Innerbody Research want to help you find the best test to invest in. There’s nothing worse than spending hundreds of dollars, only to find out you aren’t getting any of the information you expected or need.
With that in mind, we compared the flat costs of tests – many companies have multiple – and membership options. Some companies require a monthly or annual membership fee to access and update your information, while others give it all to you upfront. We also considered exactly what you’re getting for the money – whether it’s a genetic trait test, full genome sequencing, or anything in between.
Toolbox Genomics has no subscription fee and some of the least expensive costs overall. Their most expensive package, which contains both a genetic and epigenetic test, maxes out at $299. While you can get a full genome sequencing for the same amount from a company like Nebula Genomics, Toolbox Genomics doesn’t expect that you keep paying for what you’ve already purchased.
No company is perfect, and Toolbox Genomics is no exception. While they might not charge any hidden fees, they do suggest you retest your epigenetics every few months. They’ve set up a subscription service for you to re-order your retests without worry, which can quickly add up as an epigenetic test on its own costs $249. However, this retesting is not required, nor will you lose any benefits or bonuses by not participating. With Toolbox Genomics, you still get one of the most in-depth genetic analyses for less than half the price.
Here’s a chart to help you visualize the differences in cost and membership options.
|Least expensive test||Most expensive test||Paid membership?|
|InsideTracker||$249 ($187 with code INNERBODY25)||$838 ($629 with code INNERBODY25)|
Winner: Nebula Genomics
It can be hard to tell whether or not a genetic test is accurate. After all, genetics aren’t a perfect parallel to your lived experience; just because you’re genetically predisposed to something doesn’t mean that you’ll go through it. On the other hand, how can you tell the difference between that and a genetic test just being wrong?
Every analyzed sequence provides an opportunity for mistakes, but our most accurate choice, Nebula Genomics, is a full genome test. The other full-genome test, Sequencing.com, provides testing to the same standards, but their third-party app system means that we don’t know how exactly those genes are interpreted. Nebula Genomics does all of their analysis in-house, so the same standard of care that extracts your DNA goes into translating those base pairs into meaningful traits.
Later in this guide is a chart that breaks down some analyses of results from all five of our top choices. Nebula Genomics ranks among the strongest of them, which held up no matter what genes our testers analyzed.
When it comes to your genes, privacy is key. Your exact DNA sequence can only be found in you, but traces can be found in your family by blood. It can be easy for hackers to learn sensitive information about you and your family if there are any data breaches, even if your family hasn’t taken part in a DNA test. At-home DNA tests can even help police trace criminal activity and catch serial killers, such as the Golden State Killer, who was identified through third cousins who’d used the genetic testing service GEDMatch. However, that’s not the only way your information can be compromised through a DNA test if the company you use isn’t careful.
No company has perfect privacy standards. By submitting your genetic information with a test, there is an inherent risk. However, Toolbox Genomics and Sequencing.com stand out as the two best choices for strong privacy.
Sequencing.com has better security standards outright – they even call their policies Privacy First. They know how vital your genetic information is and want to help you keep it private. Their explanations explicitly state that they will never sell your data and don’t aim to monetize it, instead making their money through membership fees and third-party app prices. However, since Sequencing.com is an app-based marketplace that uses many third-party applications, we can’t know exactly what those third parties do with your genetic information. We hope that they follow the rules and high standards set by Sequencing.com but can’t find enough information out there to guarantee.
Likewise, Sequencing.com also uses an “altruist” model with their genetic information. You can upload your information for free if you’ve received results from an outside genetic testing company; however, this puts you in their “altruist” plan without notification. As an altruist, your genetic information is automatically stripped of any identifying information and put into a database for researchers to use in studies. While scientific research is a noble effort, some notification of this setting is vital, with a more explicit method of getting your consent.
Toolbox Genomics has a slightly more middle-of-the-road approach. While they don’t have the high-end security technology of Sequencing.com, they keep all of your information in-house, testing with one partnered laboratory that is CLIA- and CAP-certified. They go out of their way to ensure that none of your data is ever seen by anyone who doesn’t need it to do their job, and it is always de-identified and anonymized. This means that they won’t sell your information to third parties, including researchers, without your consent.
We think they’re top-notch because they meet all of these guidelines and provide clear instructions on removing any piece of your information from their database. Should you ever change your mind, they make it easy to revoke your consent.
Shipping times can always vary. We’ve all waited impatiently for something that was supposed to have happened days – if not weeks – before. This wait can feel even more agonizing for something as significant and illuminating as a DNA test. We looked at the amount of time it takes to ship and receive a test and get your results (both predicted by the site and our testers’ actual experiences).
For the most part, you can expect a genetic test to take 3-5 weeks to process. A full-genome test will take between 10-12 weeks. This discrepancy is because more information needs to be analyzed in a full-genome test – 20,000-25,000 genes instead of 50-250 in most standard genetic tests.
With that in mind, InsideTracker was the fastest genetic test by a long shot. Our testers, expecting their results to come back in 4-6 weeks, were stunned to see them complete in a mere ten days. No other genetic testing company came close.
The chart below explains each of our top company’s estimated – and actual – processing times with our testers’ results. Only one company – Sequencing.com – took longer than expected, and even then, it only exceeded the time frame by one week.
|Estimated time||Actual time|
|Nebula Genomics||12 weeks||11 weeks|
|Toolbox Genomics||3-4 weeks genetic, 8-10 weeks epigenetic (total)||3 weeks genetic, 7 weeks epigenetic (total)|
|Sequencing.com||10-12 weeks||13 weeks|
|InsideTracker||4-6 weeks||10 days|
|23andMe||3-5 weeks||5 weeks|
Relevance to your daily life
Winner: InsideTracker (with Toolbox Genomics a close runner-up)
Not every piece of information that you learn about your genetic code will be valuable. Sometimes, you want to know your genetic makeup to improve your life, whether that’s avoiding predisposed sensitivities, embracing genetic gifts, or leveraging your genes to get fit fast. Knowing this information is great, but sometimes having that information can feel limiting. Being aware of your genetic predisposition for high cholesterol is one thing, and knowing what to do to stay healthy is another.
InsideTracker offers the most thorough guide toward optimal health. In a lot of ways, InsideTracker’s genetic testing is a supplemental test for their other health tests, which require blood draws every three months for biomarker analysis to actively measure and track things like inflammation, blood count, and vitamin levels. Along with your genetic information, these biomarkers are used to create an action plan – a guide with up to five small goals – for your health. These action plans use a straightforward step-by-step process to help you figure out exactly what you need to change to achieve your goal.
However, InsideTracker’s results are only helpful if you use one of their complete health plans. Just seeing their handful of genetic markers limits the amount of usable information considerably. Toolbox Genomics is a great second option if you aren’t ready to have 4-6 vials of blood drawn at your local laboratory. Their action plans aren’t as robust, but they cast a much wider net to give you more genetic information on traits and predispositions that can affect your health and minor substitutions and suggestions to go along with each.
Genetic testing is complicated, and everyone uses it for a different reason. Because each test is so individualized, we can’t tell you what the right one will be for you. However, each of our top five favorites has its pros and cons, excelling in different categories so that you can poke around and find what will fit your needs best.
Overall, we think that Toolbox Genomics is the best choice for most people. It’s balanced between having scientific information to back up their claims without being jargon-heavy or dense; it provides both information and actionable steps to utilize that information; it isn’t costly for the vast amount of data it gives you.
We’ve put together a comparative chart so you can get a sense of what each test covers.
|DNA health information||Epigenetics||Ancestry||Full genome sequencing||Action plans|
There are a surprisingly large number of types of DNA tests. As we continue learning more about the human genome and improving our technology, more types of tests will surely be developed. For the most part, DNA tests vary on the scope (how much of your genome they look at) and the number of genes it analyzes (a handful of select genes or specific bases that mutate to cause genetic variation or a complete genome).
A majority of DNA tests that you can order without a doctor’s guidance or prescription fall into three categories:
Commonly interchangeable with DNA testing, genetic testing measures specific genes. This analysis only looks at individual genes from a list they’ve prepared. A simple genetic test is typically what we think of when DNA testing comes up in conversation and is the most common type
Epigenetic testing monitors small chemical changes above your DNA that essentially turn sections of your genetic code on and off. These changes influence how DNA gets read and coded and, in turn, change how your genes manifest themselves. Epigenetic changes are reversible: for example, after you stop smoking, epigenetic changes caused by carcinogens in tobacco turn off. Since epigenetics change over the course of your lifespan, they are often good indicators of aging.
Full genome testing
A full genome test maps out every base pair on all 23 sets of chromosomes. No adenosine goes unturned – even parts of your DNA that don’t map to anything we know yet or introns and exons, the “start” and “stop” codes. Full genome tests often take a lot longer to process and require a more hands-on approach to understand since there’s more information. But there’s also more you can learn with full genome testing and more possibilities to learn without retesting in the future.
Other types of genetic tests are less common or only orderable by a genetic counselor or medical professional, including:
- RNA testing
- Mitochondrial DNA testing (for maternal ancestry)
- Exome testing
- Chromosomal tests
- Karyotypes (which count and measure all of your chromosomes)
- Gene expression/mRNA tests
- Y-chromosome ancestry tests (for paternal ancestry)
There are also different genetic tests for ancestral information and health information. Some genetic tests, like 23andMe or Sequencing.com, look at both. In this guide, we focus solely on DNA tests for health information.
To take these tests, you’ll need to collect cells that contain complete sets of your DNA. For the most part, DNA tests you take at home take samples of cells from your saliva or light brushing on the inside of your cheek.
A DNA test can tell you about your genetic predisposition for or against certain traits. These traits can range dramatically, from simple phenotypic information like hair or eye color to your susceptibility for mental illnesses and disabilities like schizophrenia or multiple sclerosis. Traits like these are biologically-rooted, which are the only kind that a DNA test could anticipate. They are not made for guessing how much money you’ll make in the future or where you’ll live but might show you have a high tolerance for handling stress and have a tendency toward lower than average body temperature.
It’s important to remember that these are predispositions, not traits or predictions. A DNA test can’t tell you exactly what the future will hold. Many lifestyle and environmental factors can help or hinder a gene’s activation. While you still learn plenty from a DNA test, it’s not a magic wand or a Magic 8-ball.
That said, there are many overlaps in the genes that health-based DNA tests look at. (There are only so many genes that influence your health and behavior, after all.) Some of the most common traits that most – if not all – of our favorite DNA tests investigated are:
- Muscle power
- Snacking tendencies
- Power-to-weight ratio
- Caffeine consumption
- Cilantro/coriander preference
- Vitamin B12 and folate
- Lactose intolerance
- Sleep duration
- Attention span
- Working memory
- Glaucoma risk
- Alcohol sensitivity
- Pain sensitivity
For the most part, the kinds of DNA tests you take at home are accurate. While the accuracy depends on the kind of test you take, all of the tests we recommend operate with stringent quality control standards, work with high-quality CLIA- and CAP-certified laboratories, and don’t over-promise results.
When a DNA test is FDA-approved, we know that it’s been rigorously tested, and accuracy is just this side of guaranteed. Right now, only one test you can take at home – 23andMe – has been FDA-approved, and only for specific genes such as BRCA1 and BRCA2.
However, not having FDA approval isn’t the end of the world, as FDA approval for at-home DNA tests is a rigorous, lengthy process that many just haven’t been around long enough to complete. Laboratory standards such as CLIA (the Clinical Laboratory Improvement Amendments) are a great clue into a genetic tests’ accuracy. These standards guarantee that they do high-quality testing and have gone through rigorous testing with at least a moderate sense of precision.
Labs that work with people can apply for CLIA certification, meaning that they meet or exceed the quality, privacy, and safety standards set by the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services. All of the tests we recommend work with CLIA- and CAP-certified labs.
To understand more about accuracy across the board, one of our testers gathered their results for three genes across all of our best DNA tests. These genes are commonly found in many DNA tests and are easy to identify phenotypically:
- Cilantro/coriander preference (does it taste like soap?)
- Caffeine sensitivity
- Gluten intolerance
Not every test looked at all three of these genes, so tests that didn’t have a result are blank in the chart below.
|Cilantro preference||Caffeine sensitivity||Gluten intolerance|
|Tester’s experience||Like||Normal to low||
|Nebula Genomics||Unable to tell||Low||High (many variants noted)|
|InsideTracker||Normal||Average (one variant, not seen)|
You can see from these results that most of these tests were accurate, but none of them were perfect. Our lived experiences are as much, if not more, of a predictor than what genetic tests can tell us. This doesn’t mean that genetic tests are worthless – in fact, quite the opposite. A genetic test like the ones in this guide can help us identify trends in our lives and biological inclinations to inform ourselves.
It’s essential to keep in mind that ancestral-based DNA tests are often less accurate than health-based DNA tests. This is because there aren’t specific genes associated with different countries, regions, or ethnicities; instead, they depend on “libraries” of traits commonly associated with people only from one particular region. If you’re looking for your European background, like many people using AncestryDNA, you’re likely to find it in greater detail than someone looking for their Somalian background.
Genetic tests that analyze traits related to your health and lifestyle choices are based much more closely on existing research studies. Sometimes, genetic tests can overpromise their findings, suggesting that, for example, the COMT gene is an “overachiever gene” when it is actually closely tied to things like a neurotic personality. In reality, the COMT gene codes for an enzyme that helps the brain process dopamine, catecholamines, and estrogen.
At the same time, some services can stay too close to science, reporting results from two conflicting studies with the same emphasis, giving you two completely different results on the same trait. And, like with ancestry, at-home tests can easily miss variants that are more common in people of color.
While a DNA test might not predict your future, it can give you a good insight into how your body works. Whether you’re driven by curiosity about family history or looking for a better, more closely-tailored exercise plan, an at-home DNA test can help.
For the most part, DNA tests can also help you stay vigilant about potential diseases. If you find out that you have a gene closely related to strokes, learning the four major warning signs of a stroke can help you be proactive and prepared in ways you might not otherwise know to be. These measures can range dramatically from learning symptoms to changing your diet to having preventative surgeries, in the case of a positive BRCA1 or BRCA2 mutation.
There is no wrong time to test your genetics. Your age when you test won’t necessarily make a difference, as your genes stay the same (except for epigenetics) your entire life. However, be aware that some genetic findings may be shocking or upsetting, so it’s important to be prepared for uncomfortable situations.
We recommend familiarizing yourself with the genetic test you’re taking: what does it test for? What results might you expect? Finding out that you’ve tested positive for an APOE mutation that makes you more likely to develop Alzheimer’s isn’t something you’d want to do alone. Genetic counselors can also help you out here, both in processing the finding and retesting to make sure that it was correct in the first place.
Every DNA testing company has a different set of rules about sharing information. Still, none of our top five share any traceable personal data back to you without your consent. This personal information – things like your name, address, or health history – is separated from your genetic information before it goes off to the lab. DNA testing companies often have kit IDs (unique codes) that keep your information with your account but separate from any personal data to keep your data secure while it’s in the lab.
Some DNA testing companies share your genetic database with researchers (de-identified, so there’s no way to trace it back to you) to help them better understand human genetics. Sharing information like this can create more realistic ideas of how genes relate and, therefore, what they might do. However, a DNA test that shares this information needs to have informed consent from you. They might share this while you’re purchasing your kit or after creating an account, but the best DNA testing companies tell you this information outright.
Insider Tip: If you aren’t sure whether or not your information has been given to researchers, check the footer on the DNA testing company’s webpage. Most companies that partner with researchers have their informed consent information readily available so that you never lose it.
One of the tricky things about DNA testing is that it never impacts just you. Once your DNA is in a database, your family – particularly immediate family, such as your parents, siblings, and children – has been at least partially cataloged too. This is because you all share genetic material from the same source.
Some studies have found that up to 90% of all Caucasians in the United States have at least one third cousin’s DNA in a database, so you likely aren’t alone. If you’re concerned about the broader implications of having your DNA in a database like that, most testing companies delete your information from their servers if you reach out and ask.
Best overall, Best epigenetic test, and Best budget pick
- Gives scientific information and direct links to studies without getting lost in the details
- Provides action steps, hints, and suggestions for your diet and exercise
- Action steps are based on genetic results without being prescriptive
- One of the only satisfying epigenetic tests on the market
- Relatively inexpensive with no membership fees
- Requires a smartphone to receive results (Apple iOS 11.0 or Android OS version 6)
- Website and app clunky with difficult-to-navigate graphic design
- Automatic informative emails don’t always send
- Customer service can be spotty
- A lot of unfinished content (but this means a lot of exciting work is on the horizon)
We think that Toolbox Genomics is the best overall genetic test for health in 2022. They offer a wide range of results – from your likelihood of high cholesterol to workaholic tendencies to muscle-to-power ratio – at an affordable price point. While they encourage you to retest your epigenetics after a few months of changes, it’s unnecessary. They offer an equally low-price subscription kit if you want to keep an eye on your epigenetic changes.
They rate above other genetic tests with action plans because they keep a sharp eye on epigenetic changes, looking at how our actions influence our genetic expressions rather than just our day-to-day lives. Unlike most epigenetic tests, Toolbox Genomics measures your epigenetic expression across five different categories:
- Biological age (the most common)
- Eye age
- Hearing age
- Memory age
- Inflammation score
The science of Toolbox Genomics is also astonishingly solid. Every result you get links multiple scientific studies, showing exactly how they found and interpreted your genetic code. Every relevant gene they considered is listed by name if you’re interested in doing more research. The transparency of Toolbox Genomics’ work is admirable, allowing you to take agency over your own DNA.
Plus, Toolbox Genomics is one of the least expensive options for DNA tests and doesn’t require membership fees to access your information. We recommend either the stand-alone genetic test or a combination of genetic and epigenetic tests for the best use of your money. An epigenetic test alone doesn’t tell you that much information yet but costs almost as much as a stand-alone genetic test.
While Toolbox Genomics is still growing, working to implement more features like deeper epigenetic insights and more robust action plans, the groundwork that’s been laid provides a lot of promise.
Best for carrier screening, Best full genome test, and Most comprehensive
- Extremely well-researched and fleshed out trait analyses
- Phenomenal accuracy, checking results up to 100 times for complete verification
- Two detailed exploration tools let you look at your DNA base by base
- Offers both a full genome sequence and smaller simple-trait analysis
- Requires a membership to retain updates and full access to your information
- Virtually no noticeable difference between two most expensive plans
- Lots of scientific jargon in explorer and analysis tools
- Some traits they analyze have troubling sociocultural implications
Nebula Genomics was founded by Dr. George Church, the geneticist who’s set out – and, in late 2021, got funding – to clone the first wooly mammoth, and it shows. This whole-genome analysis service gives you complete control over your genetic information, providing you with many of the same tools geneticists have and intelligent summaries for over 275 different genetic traits. If the thought of clicking through hundreds of traits and dense scientific reports is daunting, Nebula Genomics has a traits section that has four categories of curated traits, each exploring phenotypes common in other genetic tests.
The full catalog of genes can be overwhelming for even the most genetically adept. They provide several different levels of understanding, from a simple breakdown of a handful of common traits to a full chromosomal explorer. Many common trait analyses didn’t have results that map onto our current understandings of the gene’s variants, rendering them useless for our testers. While Nebula Genomics isn’t going to be the best choice for everyone, many of our testers returned to the Nebula Library to double-check information provided by other genetic testing services.
Nebula Genomics provides a less expensive full genome analysis option. However, the required monthly membership fee (which gives two new gene analyses a week and continues your access to your information) undercuts their reasonable pricing.
While they frequently update all of their information for you, Nebula Genomics is also updating things internally. They are moving toward running all of their privacy settings through the blockchain, which has some questionable privacy standards with frequent hacking and permanent ledgers. But, in the meantime, they take every step they can to protect your personal information, to the point of publishing papers in well-regarded scientific magazines (initially published in Nature Biotechnology) on genomic privacy.
Best for nutrition and fitness, Fastest turnaround time
- Rich detail and explanations on all blood biomarkers
- Interactive, engaging action plans allow for lots of personalization
- Fantastic choice for athletes or those focused on diet, stamina, and muscle health
- Goal-setting allows for regular check-ins and monitoring without any additional fees
- Take 25% off with coupon code INNERBODY25
- DNA testing is a second thought – and it shows in comparisons
- Expensive with DNA testing as an additional cost
- Requires retesting every 3 months
- Homogenous research base means your comparisons won’t necessarily reflect reality
InsideTracker functions more like a health monitoring service than a genetic test. In fact, their DNA testing is an add-on to their primary testing plans, which measure biomarkers in your blood for over 40 major health concerns. These results are then combined with action plans, steps you choose to improve your health in various categories (from cognition to fat loss) based on your bloodwork results.
So, how do your genes play in? InsideTracker compares your genetic results to your blood biomarker results to show you where you’re beating the odds and where you’re predisposed to have a harder time. The genes themselves matter less than how your bloodwork turns out. That said, if you’re less interested in your COMT gene and more interested in how you can lower your cortisol, InsideTracker might be a great option. They provide insight into your daily habits, choices, and areas where you could do better.
Best for nutrition and fitness, Fastest turnaround time
- Upload your DNA results from other major companies for free
- Wide range of apps in the marketplace to analyze your DNA
- Results come within 24 hours from individual apps
- Checks everything from ancestry to nutrition to carrier status in one place
- Strong internal privacy measures
- Full genome upload takes over six hours, even with high upload speeds
- Full genome sequencing takes three months to complete
- Additional fees and membership costs after your DNA test
- Website is not always intuitive to navigate
On paper, Sequencing.com sounds like a phenomenal option. It is an app-based marketplace for genetic testing, where you can either upload genetic results from any major DNA testing company for free or have Sequencing.com perform either a partial or full genome test for a marginal fee. Once you have your genetic results, you can pick from more than 50 investigative tests to personalize what you learn about your genetic code.
Many of these apps are third-party, meaning Sequencing.com did not create nor run the tests. In our testing, we found the quality of these third-party tests varied dramatically. Some provided almost 600 pages of dense information, while others gave a few words on a handful of pages.
Some results cost upwards of $60, giving the impression that they were incredibly high-quality while turning over difficult-to-read or surface-level information. Of course, you could bypass the cost problem by subscribing to a monthly membership, which gives you two free tests a month for $11.99.
Ultimately, we wanted to love Sequencing.com and their robust, person-first privacy measures, offering the idea of only taking one genetic test to get every result you want. Still, we felt they didn’t quite reach their full potential.
- Only FDA-approved at-home genetic test
- Combines ancestry and health DNA while still giving thorough results in both
- Website is user-friendly, with easy access to your results
- Provides simple – yet accurate – explanations and points out any concerns
- Big focus on research leads to some questions about privacy
- Lots and lots of surveys
- Doesn’t yet provide any full-genome testing
If you’ve heard of any genetic test, it’s likely to be 23andMe. This notorious testing service is currently the only one approved by the FDA, meaning it’s the only one you can fully trust when it notifies you of a carrier status or alarming variations on genes like BRCA1 (which increases your risk of breast and ovarian cancer by up to 72%).
However, FDA approval for genetic tests is slow since a test for each gene must be approved separately. This process is painfully slow for a service like Nebula Genomics, which looks at all 20,000-plus genes in the human genome. Even 23andMe doesn’t have full approval for every gene they test, but this isn’t an inherently bad sign. Like with all genetic tests, it just means that you should take each answer with a grain of salt.
Specifically, 23andMe spans a wide range of categories, giving you a small sample of everything from your ancestry to carrier status to pharmacogenetics (how you are genetically inclined to react to different drugs). They sample specific genes and add new traits regularly, but updates don’t always provide more insight into your genes – more often, they are newly added for those who are just getting started with 23andMe. A paid membership allows you to access these updates.
23andMe has partnered with qualified researchers to delve deeper into the mysteries of the human genome, but they need data to do so. Participating in 23andMe Research is optional, but you’ll have to navigate away from some surveys and redact your consent to keep away your de-identified and anonymized data. It’s important to note that 23andMe links three informed consent documents to their page:
- Research consent
- Biobanking consent
- Individual data sharing consent
You’ll need to give your consent – or withdraw it – at the start of the process. If you ever forget exactly what you’ve consented to, 23andMe makes it easy to find and recall.
At Innerbody Research, we extensively test each health service we review, including these DNA testing services. Our team has spent over 250 hours testing and researching DNA testing services to provide an accurate, unbiased analysis of how they compare, free of marketing jargon and gimmicks.
Over the past two decades, Innerbody Research has helped tens of millions of readers make more informed decisions to live healthier lifestyles. We evaluate the service based on adherence to quality, the latest medical evidence and health standards, and a simple question: would we buy the product or service ourselves if it weren’t part of our job, and would we recommend it to family and friends?
Additionally, like all health-related content on this website, this guide was thoroughly vetted by one or more members of our Medical Review Board for accuracy.